Peter Grimes at Metropolitan Opera: Coronation of the Bi-Polar

Awaiting Act I at Peter Grimes

Awaiting Act I at Peter Grimes

Saturday afternoon I had the good fortune of attending a performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera, Peter Grimes, at the Metropolitan Opera, located in Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, between West 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. The performance was also available in HDTV-equipped movie theaters and on the radio.

Staged by British director, John Doyle, this version of Peter Grimes was stark in its visual appearance which progressively and effectively squeezed the life out of Grimes as he met his demise, once again, in the deep dark sea. It appears that some reviewers did not agree with Doyle’s scenic choices. Oh well, what do they know. In the recent past, Doyle is known for equally stark revivals of the musicals “Sweeney Todd” and “Company.”

Anthony Dean Griffey sang the title role and earned every bit of his standing ovation at the end of the performance. The Met Opera chorus was in fine form to this untrained ear and highlights among the female leads included Felicity Palmer who played Mrs. Sedley – the laudanum swilling gossip. I wouldn’t mind a drink with Mrs. Sedley – but would hate to get on her bad side.

Sunlight on Metropolitan Opera Balcony

Sunlight on Metropolitan Opera Balcony

It is not clear in this current version of the opera, but originally, Peter Grimes was depicted in the story as a pedophile. After a few edits to the original 1940s production with Peter Pears as lead, it appears he is merely bi-polar today – though Grimes gets especially irritated around little boys.

Peter Grimes in HDTV

Peter Grimes in HDTV

In 2004, James Fenton wrote in the Guardian that the origin for Peter Grimes – George Crabbe’s poem, “The Village” – had been twisted by Britten. Crabbe’s version had Grimes as “a paragon of cruelty, a damned soul who acquires his apprentices for financial gain, and is responsible for their early deaths.” In other words, Grimes was a clear jerk in Crabbe’s poem. Britten’s version yields sympathy for a guy nobody likes because, quite frankly, they have nothing better to do with their miserable lives. Still, every boy under Grimes somewhat watchful and wild eye dies.

Does Grimes get what he deserves?

On Saturday afternoon, the audience certainly received what it deserved for seats priced as much as $150 ticket – a rich, well-executed opera.

Met Opera Entrance during Peter Grimes

The Complete Cast, Music and Design:

  • Peter Grimes: Anthony Dean Griffey
  • Ellen Orford: Patricia Racette
  • Bastrode: Anthony Michaels-Moore
  • Swallow: John Del Carlo
  • Mrs. Sedley: Felicity Palmer
  • Auntie: Jill Grove
  • Bob Boles: Greg Fedderly
  • Ned Keene: Teddy Tahu Rhodes
  • Boy: Logan William Erickson
  • Music: Benjamin Britten; Libretto: Montagu Slater; Director: John Doyle; Conductor: Donald Runnicles; Set designer: Scott Pask; Costume designer: Ann Hould-Ward; Lighting designer: Peter Mumford.
Lincoln Center Fountain Under Construction

Lincoln Center Fountain Under Construction

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March 20th, 2008

Entry Filed under: East Village, New York City


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