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Notes and Editorial Reviews
When 'Peter Grimes' premiered in 1945, English opera received a much-needed invigoration and Benjamin Britten's career as the leading British composer of his generation was launched. This ambiguous tale of evil and intolerance in a claustrophobic fishing village has remained the most popular of Britten's operas, its success earned by its evocative music, vividly-sketched characters and unerring sense of theater.
This 1978 recording with Jon Vickers in the title role has long been deemed a classic of 20th-century opera, challenged only by the opera's first recording led by the composer himself and starring Peter Pears. Vickers practically owned this role for many years, and his interpretation differs greatly from Pears'. More rugged and
impulsive, Vickers sounds positively unhinged at many points, while Pears played Grimes as more of a visionary dreamer. Other roles are memorably portrayed here as well, with Heather Harper a strong-willed and sympathetic Ellen Orford, and Patricia Payne a menacing and appropriately disagreeable Mrs. Sedley, to name a few. The orchestra under Colin Davis is by turns delicate and thrilling in the wonderful interludes. The only flaw in this welcome mid-price reissue is the absence of a libretto, but thanks to the singers' clear diction - and Britten's incomparable text-setting - it's hardly missed. Read less
Works on This Recording
Peter Grimes, Op. 33 by Benjamin Britten
Jon Vickers (Tenor),
Anne Pashley (Soprano),
Heather Harper (Soprano),
Jonathan Summers (Baritone),
Elisabeth Bainbridge (Mezzo Soprano),
Teresa Cahill (Soprano),
John Dobson (Tenor),
Forbes Robinson (Bass),
Patricia Payne (Mezzo Soprano),
John Lanigan (Tenor),
Thomas Allen (Baritone),
Richard Van Allan (Bass)
Sir Colin Davis
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1944-1945; England
Date of Recording: 04/1978
Venue: London, England
Length: 146 Minutes 18 Secs.
Notes: Composition written: England (1944 - 1945).
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Incomprehensible Without A Libretto January 11, 2014
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"Benjamin Britten's stark, bleak, and austere work exposes the dark side of human nature with uncompromisingly gloomy character portrayals. Indeed, the first time listener might well be tempted to use the word 'macabre' to describe what happens in the end. In this Philips recording, the singing is good, but the listener has to contend with lots of hysteria, shrieking, and confrontational situations as Grimes faces the suspicions of the entire English coastal town. Surely this is all part of Britten's concept of bringing Peter Grimes to the edge of murderous and suicidal insanity. Jon Vickers' stunning portrayal of Grimes' descent into the abyss of emotional collapse is without doubt the key performance in this work. Often displaying a ghostly, disembodied quality, the orchestration appropriately fits the libretto with liberal use of dissonances, scaled down instrumentation, and harsh, plaintive crescendos. So far, so good, but now we come to the major problem with this recording- no libretto included. To my mind, this is the biggest deficiency with this effort, and I simply cannot understand why Philips neglected this critically needed asset. This is a major blunder, because it makes following the intense nature of the singing an almost impossible challenge for the first time listener. Overall, Peter Grimes places substantial demands on the listener, and I suppose this recording will be rewarding to those already familiar with the story, but if you are looking at Peter Grimes for the first time, you may be better served with a recording that has the full libretto."
Britten at his best April 3, 2012
By (virginia beach, VA) See All My Reviews
"All singers at the top of their game, especially Vickers.Orch.sounds great.It"s my only recording of Grimes,and I"m very happy with it.The cond. really has a handle on this music, and it shows."