Thursday, June 23, 2011

Peter Grimes: the individual against the mass, and the corruption of innocence.

Royal Opera House Website.

Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes is one of the must-see genius works of 20th-century opera. Powerful and haunting music of extraordinary emotional intensity brings alive a disturbing story of prejudice, suspicion and persecution in a small fishing village on the East Anglian coast. The power of the sea and the changing moods of the landscape are famously evoked in rare subtlety by this great music as the background to a drama that requires the richest of musical and dramatic interpretation. Ben Heppner as the outsider fisherman of the title and Amanda Roocroft as the school mistress Ellen Orford – steadfast in her sympathy for Peter – are at the centre of an impressive cast under conductor Andrew Davis making a very welcome return to the royal Opera House. Willy Decker’s production has its first revival by the Royal Opera, bringing an intense focus to an introverted and judgemental world, in which intolerance leads to tragedy. the music and the drama are deeply intertwined in a great opera of menace and beauty, threat and compassion.

Review: The Guardian

On Friday June 24th, Royal Opera House: The Cockroach Catcher, his wife and younger daughter will be there for a performance of Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten.

In 1942, Britten, then living in America, came across an article by the novelist E. M. Forster on the Suffolk poet George Crabbe, an encounter that was a decisive factor in Britten’s resolve to return to England for good. It was Crabbe’s poem ‘The Borough’ which subsequently served as the basis for Britten’s first full-scale opera, Peter Grimes, the work that launched him internationally as the leading British composer of his generation and which almost single-handedly effected the renaissance of English opera.

From the Royal Opera House, 2004
The composer’s self-avowed aim in the opera was ‘to express my awareness of the perpetual struggle of men and women whose livelihood depends on the sea’ and anyone who has visited the coastline around the composer’s home town of Aldeburgh will recognize the uncanny certainty with which Britten has captured that land- and seascape in Peter Grimes. Perhaps more importantly, the opera also introduces many of the fundamental dramatic themes which characterise Britten’s entire operatic output: the individual against the mass, and the corruption of innocence.

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Jobbing Doctor said...

Peter Grimes is one of the greatest achievements of British Music in the 20th Century. It is a compelling and tragic story, with characterisation finely drawn with accessible and atmospheric music.

The ultimate tragedy of the proud loner against a spiteful society, and society always wins.

My particular favourite bit is towards the end of Act 2 when the villagers go off in search of Grimes, to confront (?lynch) him, and the four women (Ellen, Auntie and the Nieces) sing a quartet with floating flutes above that always gets me in tears. Always.

Do enjoy it.

Cockroach Catcher said...

It is as removed as any opera can be to Wagner and yet the difficulties meant that Wagnerian Tenors are required. right now there are fewer than 5 in the world.

This one withdrew from the Met's Wagner and he struggled with Grimes. some were kind enough to say that it was dramatic as Grimes was so distraught.

It was very dramatic, the ROH's minimalistic set was very Nordic in feel and suits Grimes.

Britten and his view on religion!!

Thanks JD. Always a pleasure.