Britten’s Children brings to mind the case of Michael Jackson, who, in June last year, was acquitted of molesting two small boys. The pop star protested his innocence by claiming, through his lawyers, that he loved and understood children far better than he could ever love or understand grown-ups. This he attributed to the cruel upbringing inflicted upon him by his brutish father, and he was supported in his defence by a psychiatrist, who argued that children who are victimised by one or by both of their parents quite often spend the rest of their lives chasing the chimera of their lost childhoods. In Michael Jackson’s case, this manifested itself in his calling his house ‘Neverland’, turning his garden into a ‘Kingdom of Dreams and Magic’, altering his face, pretending to be some sort of funfair conjuror and, bizarrely, taking boys to his bed, where he did nothing more than sleep the night with them.
Benjamin Britten didn’t have as much money as Michael Jackson, nor did he live in such an avaricious, paedophile-obsessed and litigious age, so whatever went on between him and his boys went largely unnoticed. Not so unnoticed, however, that a smallish cloud hasn’t been seen to hover over his reputation