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Photo: Bill Rafferty
English National Opera 1993, Tim Albery

Britten, Benjamin

Peter Grimes (1945)

Duration: 147 minutes
Opera in three acts and a prologue

Libretto by Montagu Slater, derived from a poem by George Crabbe (E,Bg,Cz,Dn,F,Fl,Fn,G,H,I,J,P,Sc)

Scoring
Major roles: S,A,T,Bar; minor roles: 2S,M,2T,Bar,2B,2mimes; chorus 2(=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=Ebcl).2.dbn-4.2.Dtpt.3.1-timp.perc(2):SD/TD/ BD/tamb/tgl/cyms/gong/whip/xyl/rattle-cel-harp-strings Off-stage:organ-bells-tuba* Dance band on-stage*:2cl-perc:cym/SD/BD-pft(ad lib)-vln.db (*taken from the orchestra).
Abbreviations (PDF).


Territory
This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.



World Premiere
6/7/1945
Sadler's Wells, London
Eric Crozier, director
Conductor: Reginald Goodall
Company: Sadler's Wells Opera

Roles

PETER GRIMES, a fishermanTenor
BOY (JOHN), his apprenticeSilent role
ELLEN ORFORD, a widow, schoolmistress of the BoroughSoprano
CAPTAIN BALSTRODE, retired merchant skipperBaritone
AUNTIE, landlady of "The Boar"Alto
TWO NIECES, main attractions of "The Boar"Sopranos
SWALLOW, a lawyerBass
BOB BOLES, fisherman and MethodistTenor
MRS. (NABOB) SEDLEY, a rentier widow of an East India Company's factorMezzo-Soprano
REV. HORACE ADAMS, the rectorTenor
NED KEENE, apothecary and quackBaritone
HOBSON, carrierBass
DR. CRABBESilent role
Chorus of townspeople and fisherfolkSATB


Time and Place
The Borough, a fishing village, East Coast of Anglia, towards 1830


Synopsis

At an inquest into the death of William Spode, apprentice to the fisherman Peter Grimes, coroner Swallow calls various witnesses, including Grimes himself, but the verdict of death in accidental circumstances does not satisfy the bulk of the villagers, who regard Grimes as a violent criminal. Their attitude becomes one of open antagonism when his only friend, the schoolmistress Ellen Orford, collects another apprentice from the workhouse for him. In the pub that evening Grimes claims his new boy, to a reception from his fellow townsfolk that is openly and almost universally hostile. Ellen befriends the new boy, John, but is horrified to find evidence on his body of mistreatment. Challenging Peter with this, she is struck in her turn, and while the pub landlady Auntie and her dubious nieces find some sympathy for her the men of the village march in deputation to Grimes's hut to tackle him. They find it empty — minutes before the new apprentice had fallen to his death over the cliff edge and Peter had climbed down after him. Grimes now disappears, and the local gossip Mrs Sedley stirs the village worthies once more into action, this time with the entire Borough (minus Ellen and the retired sea captain Balstrode) forming a manhunt. While they chase after him, Grimes, completely unhinged by his experiences, turns up on the shore, to be sent by Balstrode to sink himself and his boat at sea. As the village returns to life the following morning, a report of a ship going down is dismissed as a rumour.


Repertoire Note
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


Moods
Dramatic, Poetic, Tragic


Subjects
Contemporary, Ethics, History, Relationships, Society, Literary


Recommended Recording
Philip Langridge/Janice Watson/Alan Opie/Ameral Gunson/John Graham-Hall/John Connell/Anne Collins/City of London Sinfonia/London Symphony Chorus/Richard Hickox
Chandos CHAN 94478
Click here to purchase this CD set from our online shop

Philip Langridge / Janice Cairns / Chorus and Orchestra of the English National Opera / David Atherton, cond
Arthaus Musik DVD PAL 100 382
Click here to purchase this DVD from our online shop

Peter Pears/Claire Watson/Owen Brannigan/Jean Watson/Geraint Evans/John Lanigan/Covent Garden Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus/Benjamin Britten
Decca 4145772
Click here to purchase this CD set from Amazon


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Items on Sale

Old Joe Has Gone Fishing SATB & pianoSATB> Details
Peter Grimes, op. 33 - librettoLibretto> Details
Peter Grimes, op. 33 - study scoreStudy Score (hardback) - Hawkes Pocket Score 749> Details
Peter Grimes, op. 33 - vocal score(Vocal Score)> Details
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