Born in Lowestoft in 1913, Benjamin Britten was closely associated with Suffolk for most of his life. The main break was during World War II when, as a conscientious objector, Britten exiled himself to the USA. Ironically enough, it was here that Britten first read the work of the nineteenth-century Suffolk poet, George Crabbe, whose The Borough, a grisly portrait of the life of the fishermen of Aldeburgh, was the basis of the libretto of Britten’s best-known opera, Peter Grimes, which was premiered in London in 1945 to great acclaim. In 1948, Britten launched the Aldeburgh Festival as a showpiece for his own works and those of his contemporaries. He lived in the village for the next ten years, during which time he completed much of his finest work as a conductor and pianist. For the rest of his life he composed many works specifically for the festival, including his masterpiece for children, Noye’s Fludde, and the last of his fifteen operas, Death in Venice.
By the mid-1960s, the festival had outgrown the parish churches in which it began, and moved into a collection of disused malthouses, five miles west of Aldeburgh on the River Alde, just south of the small village of Snape. The complex, the Snape Maltings were subsequently converted into one of the finest concert venues in the country and, in addition to the concert hall, there are now recording studios, galleries, a tearoom, and a pub, the Plough & Sail.
The Aldeburgh Festival takes place every June for two and a half weeks. Core performances are still held at the Maltings, but a string of other local venues are pressed into service as well. Throughout the rest of the year, the Maltings hosts a wide-ranging programme of musical and theatrical events, including the three-day Britten Festival in October. For more information, contact Aldeburgh Music, which operates two box offices, one at Snape Maltings, the other on Aldeburgh High Street in premises it shares with the tourist office. Tickets for the Aldeburgh Festival usually go on sale to the public towards the end of March, and sell out fast for the big-name recitals.