Thursday, 31 March 2011


Tear never took himself too seriously. On one occasion he described music as “a profession which one can hardly call essential”, a sentiment that he was happy to stand by.

By way of a little tribute to Welsh tenor Robert Tear, who died this week, I thought I'd feature a little of his most famous role.

Now the first thing that springs to mind when considering Benjamin Britten is not "camp". For despite the composer's long love affair with tenor Peter Pears, recent revelations in his (and others') diaries about flirtations with boys and trips to clandestine saunas with Auden and Insherwood, and his apparent operatic "first" with a gay character Albert Herring, the man was too self-denying and too damned serious to be described as such.

However, this scene from Britten's operatic adaptation of Thomas Mann's controversial Death in Venice - itself an exercise in extreme camp (as the Luchino Visconti film version starring Dirk Bogarde exemplifies) - and starring Robert Tear in the lead role perhaps quite befits that accolade after all...

Robert Tear obituary


  1. Not sure I agree about the non-essential-ness of cultural pursuits. One of my favourite quotes is “A man who would put a flower in a vase on a table as well as a loaf on a plate.”
    (Sean O’Casey describing James Larkin)

  2. I think I was trying to emphasise by using his quote that Mr Tear had a deep understanding of what we now call "camp" in his chosen art. For, as Susan Sontag states in her great essay on the subject - "the audience, the people who share this sensibility are not laughing at the thing they label as ‘camp,’ they’re enjoying it." Jx


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