Libretto by Montagu Slater, derived from a poem by George Crabbe (E,Bg,Cz,Dn,F,Fl,Fn,G,H,I,J,P,Sc)
Major roles: S,A,T,Bar; minor roles: 2S,M,2T,Bar,2B,2mimes; chorus
Dance band on-stage*:2cl-perc:cym/SD/BD-pft(ad lib)-vln.db
(*taken from the orchestra)
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.
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.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Britten-Pears Library