November 13: Britten's Peter Grimes
If there exists a before and after in British opera, then this is measured from the opening of Peter Grimes in June 1945. Greeted as the most important English opera since the time(s) of Henry Purcell, the success of the work was decisive in the evolution of Britten’s operatic talent and consolidating his as the composer who was to become an undisputed reference point of the 20th century.
Based on a poem published in 1810 with more ethnographic than dramatic focus, Britten
constructed a sombre parable about the conflict between the masses and the individual. The maritime atmosphere, the crudity of people’s lives and passions, and the complex, impenetrable personality of the protagonist come together in a tragedy which ferments and explodes in the din of silence and hearsay. A tragedy which is immediately forgotten gives way to the self-righteousness of everyday lives and the movement of the sea itself. The cast is led by Allan Clayton in the title role with Maria Bengtsson as Ellen Orford, Christopher Purves as Captian Balstrode, and Catherine Wyn-Rogers as Auntie.