Peter Grimes

Peter Grimes is an opera by Benjamin Britten, with a libretto adapted by Montagu Slater from the narrative poem, "Peter Grimes", in George Crabbe's book The Borough. The "borough" of the opera is a fictional village which shares some similarities with Crabbe's, and later Britten's, own home of Aldeburgh, a town on England's east coast.

It was first performed at Sadler's Wells in London on 7 June 1945, conducted by Reginald Goodall, and was the first of Britten's operas to be a critical and popular success. It is still widely performed, both in the UK and internationally, and is considered part of the standard repertoire. In addition, the Four Sea Interludes, consisting of the first, third, fifth and second interludes from the opera, were published separately (as Op. 33a) and are frequently performed as an orchestral suite. The fourth interlude, the Passacaglia was also published separately (as Op. 33b), and is also often performed, either together with the Sea Interludes or by itself.

Peter Grimes
Opera by Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten, London Records 1968 publicity photo for Wikipedia
The composer in 1968
LibrettistMontagu Slater
7 June 1945

Composition history

In 1941, shortly after the first performance of his opera Paul Bunyan, Britten and his partner Peter Pears went to stay at Escondido, California. There they read the poem by Crabbe and were struck by it. Britten, being a native of Suffolk, strongly identified with the tragic story of the Aldeburgh fisherman Peter Grimes.

This opera was first conceived while Britten was in California. Happening to read E. M. Forster's article on the 18th-century Suffolk poet George Crabbe in the BBC's magazine The Listener, he was straight away filled with nostalgic feelings about Suffolk. Pears found a copy of Crabbe's works in a second-hand bookshop and Britten read the poem The Borough, which contained the tragic story of the Aldeburgh fisherman Peter Grimes. He said later: in a flash I realised two things: that I must write an opera, and where I belonged.[1]

Britten returned to England in April 1942. Soon after his return, he asked Montagu Slater to be his librettist for Peter Grimes.[2] Britten and Pears both had a strong hand in drafting the story, and in this process the character of Grimes became far more complex. Rather than being the clear-cut villain he is in Crabbe's version, he became a victim of both cruel fate and society, while retaining darker aspects in his character.[3] It is left to the audience to decide which version is more true, and to see how clear-cut or ambiguous the various characters are.[4]

Pears was certainly the intended Peter Grimes,[5] and it is likely that Britten wrote the role of Ellen Orford for Joan Cross. The work has been called "a powerful allegory of homosexual oppression",[6] and one of "the true operatic masterpieces of the 20th century",[5] but the composer's own contemporary (1948) summation of the work was simpler:

a subject very close to my heart — the struggle of the individual against the masses. The more vicious the society, the more vicious the individual.[7]

Though as the writing of the libretto progressed, certain versions showed Grimes' relations with his apprentice to be bordering on paederastic, Pears persuaded Slater to cut the questionable stanzas from the final version.[8] The opera was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundations and is "dedicated to the memory of Natalie Koussevitzky", wife of the Russian-born American conductor Serge Koussevitzky.

Performance history

When Joan Cross, who was then manager of the Sadler's Wells company, announced her intention to re-open Sadler's Wells Theatre with Peter Grimes with herself and Peter Pears in the leading roles, there were many complaints from company members about supposed favouritism and the "cacophony" of Britten's score.[9] Yet when Peter Grimes opened in June 1945 the opera was hailed by public and critics;[10] its box-office takings matched or exceeded those for La bohème and Madame Butterfly, which were being staged concurrently by the company.[11]

Its American premiere was given in 1946 at Tanglewood by Koussevitzky's pupil, Leonard Bernstein.

Peter Grimes has been produced many times at the Royal Opera House. The first was in 1947, conducted by Karl Rankl and with Peter Pears, Joan Cross and Edith Coates reprising their roles from the Sadler's Wells premiere. The most recent was in 2011 with Andrew Davis conducting, and starring Ben Heppner, Amanda Roocroft and Jonathan Summers.[12]

In 1967, the Metropolitan Opera mounted a "landmark" production directed by Tyrone Guthrie and starring Jon Vickers in the role of Grimes.[5]

In the summer of 2013, the Aldeburgh Festival staged a performance of Peter Grimes in its natural setting on the beach at Aldeburgh[13] with tenor Alan Oke in the title role.[14]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 7 June 1945
(Conductor: Reginald Goodall)
Peter Grimes, a fisherman tenor Peter Pears
Ellen Orford, a widow, Borough schoolmistress soprano Joan Cross
Auntie, landlady of The Boar contralto Edith Coates
Niece 1 soprano Blanche Turner
Niece 2 soprano Minnia Bower
Balstrode, retired merchant skipper baritone Roderick Jones
Mrs. (Nabob) Sedley, a rentier widow mezzo-soprano Valetta Iacopi
Swallow, a lawyer bass Owen Brannigan
Ned Keene, apothecary and quack baritone Edmund Donlevy
Bob Boles, fisherman and Methodist tenor Morgan Jones
Rev. Horace Adams, the rector tenor Tom Culbert
Hobson, the carrier bass Frank Vaughan
John, Grimes' apprentice silent role Leonard Thompson



A Suffolk coastal village, mid-19th century (The date is not specified, but the foghorn in Act III places it later than the date of Crabbe's poem)

Peter Grimes is questioned at an inquest over the death at sea of his apprentice. The townsfolk, all present, make it clear that they think Grimes is guilty and deserving of punishment. Although the coroner, Mr Swallow, determines the boy's death to be accidental and clears Grimes without a proper trial, he advises Grimes not to get another apprentice—a proposal against which Grimes vigorously protests. As the court is cleared, Ellen Orford, the schoolmistress whom Grimes wishes to marry as soon as he gains the Borough's respect, attempts to comfort Grimes as he rages against what he sees as the community's unwillingness to give him a true second chance.

Act 1

The same, some days later

After the first orchestral Interlude (in the Four Sea Interludes concert version entitled "Dawn"), the chorus, who constitute "the Borough", sing of their weary daily round and their relationship with the sea and the seasons. Grimes calls for help to haul his boat ashore, but is shunned by most of the community. Belatedly, Balstrode and the apothecary, Ned Keene, assist Grimes by turning the capstan. Keene tells Grimes that he has found him a new apprentice (named John) from the workhouse. Nobody will volunteer to fetch the boy, until Ellen offers ("Let her among you without fault...").

As a storm approaches, most of the community—after securing windows and equipment—take shelter in the pub. Grimes stays out, and alone with Balstrode confesses his ambitions: to make his fortune with a "good catch", buy a good home and marry Ellen Orford. Balstrode suggests "without your booty [Ellen] will have you now", only to provoke Grimes's furious "No, not for pity!" Balstrode abandons Grimes to the storm, as the latter ruminates "What harbour shelters peace?" The storm then breaks with a vengeance (second orchestral Interlude).

In the pub, tensions are rising due both to the storm and to the fiery Methodist fisherman, Bob Boles, getting increasingly drunk and lecherous after the pub's main attraction, the two "nieces". Grimes suddenly enters ("Now the Great Bear and Pleiades..."), and his wild appearance unites almost the entire community in their fear and mistrust of his "temper". Ned Keene saves the situation by starting a round ("Old Joe has gone fishing"). Just as the round reaches a climax, Ellen arrives with the apprentice, both drenched. Grimes immediately sets off with the apprentice to his hut, despite the terrible storm.

Act 2

The same, some weeks later

On Sunday morning (the third orchestral Interlude), while most of the Borough is at church, Ellen talks with John, the apprentice. She is horrified when she finds a bruise on his neck. When she confronts Grimes about it, he brusquely claims that it was an accident. Growing agitated at her mounting concern and interference, he strikes her and runs off with the boy. This does not go unseen: first Keene, Auntie, and Bob Boles, then the chorus comment on what has happened, the latter developing into a mob to investigate Grimes's hut. As the men march off, Ellen, Auntie, and the nieces sing sadly of the relationship of women with men. The fourth interlude (Passacaglia) follows as the scene changes.

At the hut, Grimes impatiently drives the ever silent John into changing out of his Sunday clothes and into fisherman's gear, and then becomes lost in his memories of his previous, now dead apprentice, reliving the boy's death of thirst. When he hears the mob of villagers approaching, he quickly comes back to reality, stirred both by a paranoid belief that John has been "gossiping" with Ellen, so provoking the "odd procession", and at the same time feeling defiant. He gets ready to set out to sea, and he tells John to be careful climbing down the cliff to his boat, but to no avail: the boy falls to his death. When the mob reaches the hut Grimes is gone, and they find nothing out of order, so they disperse.

Act 3

The same, two days later, night time in the Borough ("Moonlight" in the Sea Interludes). While a dance is going on, Mrs Sedley tries to convince the authorities that Grimes is a murderer, but to no avail. Ellen and Captain Balstrode confide in each other: Grimes has disappeared, and Balstrode has discovered a jersey washed ashore: a jersey that Ellen recognises as one she had knitted for John. Mrs Sedley overhears this, and with the knowledge that Grimes has returned, she is able to instigate another mob. Singing "Him who despises us we'll destroy", the villagers go off in search of Grimes. The sixth interlude, not included in the Sea Interludes, covers the change of scene.

While the chorus can be heard searching for him, Grimes appears onstage, singing a long monologue sparsely accompanied by cries from the off-stage chorus, and a fog horn (represented by a solo tuba): John's death has seemingly shattered Grimes's sanity. Ellen and Balstrode find him, and the old captain encourages Grimes to take his boat out to sea and sink it. Grimes leaves. The next morning, the Borough begins its day anew, as if nothing has happened. There is a report from the coastguard of a ship sinking off the coast. This is dismissed by Auntie as "one of these rumours."


Year Cast:
Peter Grimes,
Ellen Orford,
Balstrode, Auntie
Opera House and Orchestra
1948 Peter Pears,
Joan Cross
Reginald Goodall,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Orchestra and BBC Theatre Chorus
CD: EMI Classics 64727
Cat: (excerpts)
1958 Peter Pears,
Claire Watson,
James Pease,
Jean Watson
Benjamin Britten,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus,
Recorded Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London
London CD: Decca
Cat: 414577 (reissued 1990, 2001, 2006)
1969 Peter Pears,
Heather Harper,
Bryan Drake,
Elizabeth Bainbridge
Benjamin Britten,
London Symphony Orchestra, Ambrosian Opera Chorus,
Recorded Snape Maltings.
BBC Recording DVD: Decca
Cat: 074 3261
1978 Jon Vickers,
Heather Harper,
Jonathan Summers,
Elizabeth Bainbridge
Colin Davis,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus
CD: Philips
Cat: 462847 (reissued 1999)
1981 Jon Vickers,
Heather Harper,
Norman Bailey,
Elizabeth Bainbridge
Colin Davis,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Kultur
Cat: 2255 (released 2003)
1992 Anthony Rolfe Johnson,
Felicity Lott,
Thomas Allen,
Patricia Payne
Bernard Haitink,
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden Orchestra and Chorus
CD: EMI Classics
Cat: 5483222 (reissued 2003, EMI Classics: 915620)
1994 Philip Langridge,
Janice Cairns,
Alan Opie,
Ann Howard
David Atherton,
English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Kultur
Cat: 2902
1995 Philip Langridge,
Janice Watson,
Alan Opie,
Ameral Gunson
Richard Hickox,
City of London Sinfonia and London Symphony Orchestra Chorus
CD: Chandos
Cat: 9447
2004 Glenn Winslade,
Janice Watson,
Anthony Michaels-Moore,
Jill Grove
Colin Davis,
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
CD: LSO Live
Cat: 54 [16]
2005 Christopher Ventris,
Emily Magee,
Alfred Muff,
Liliana Nikiteanu
Franz Welser-Möst,
Orchester und Chor der Oper Zürich
DVD: EMI Classics
Cat: 00971
2008 Anthony Dean Griffey,
Patricia Racette,
Anthony Michaels Moore,
Felicity Palmer
Donald Runnicles,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera
DVD: EMI Classics
2012 John Graham-Hall,
Susan Gritton,
Christopher Purves,
Felicity Palmer
Robin Ticciati,
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala
DVD: Opus Arte
Cat: OA1103D[17]



  1. ^ Matthews (2003), Ch. 4, "America Is What You Choose to Make It"
  2. ^ Matthews (2003), Ch. 5, "What Harbour Shelters Peace?"
  3. ^ Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "The lesson of Peter Grimes", The Guardian (London), 6 August 2000
  4. ^ Stephen Johnson, "Peter Grimes", The Guardian (London), 3 March 2001. Review of the opera in Birmingham
  5. ^ a b c Anthony Tommasini, "The Outsider in Their Midst: Britten’s Tale of the Haunted Misfit", The New York Times, 1 March 2008.
  6. ^ Philip Brett and Elizabeth Wood, , "Lesbian and Gay Music", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, editors. London: Macmillan, 2001.
  7. ^ "Opera's New Face", Time, 16 February 1948]
  8. ^ James Fenton, "How Grimes became grim", The Guardian, 3 July 2004
  9. ^ Gilbert (2009), p. 98
  10. ^ See, for example, "Sadler's Wells Opera – Peter Grimes", The Times (London), 8 June 1945, p. 6, and Glock, William. "Music", The Observer, 10 June 1945, p. 2
  11. ^ Banks (2000), pp. xvi–xviii.
  12. ^ "Peter Grimes" Royal Opera House Collections Oline. Retrieved 8 March 2017
  13. ^ "Coming Up: Grimes on the Beach II" Aldeburgh web site. Retrieved 20 July 2013
  14. ^ Jessica Duchen, "Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, live on the Aldeburgh beach", The Independent (London), 14 June 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013
  15. ^ Recordings of the opera on Retrieved 7 November 2010
  16. ^ Andrew Clements, "Britten: Peter Grimes: Winslade/ Watson/ Michaels-Moore/ Wyn-Rogers/ Grove/ Rutherford/ Lemalu/ London Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/ Davis". The Guardian (London), 9 July 2004
  17. ^ "Recordings of Peter Grimes, Presto Classical

Cited sources

  • Banks, Paul (2000). The Making of Peter Grimes: Essays and Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-791-2.
  • Gilbert, Susie (2009). Opera for Everybody. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-22493-7.
  • Matthews, David (2003). Britten. (Life & Times). London: Haus Publishing Limited. ISBN 1-904341-21-7.

Other sources

  • Allen, Stephen Arthur, "He Descended into Hell: Peter Grimes, Ellen Orford and Salvation Denied", The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Britten,, (ed. Mervyn Cooke). Cambridge University Press, 1999, pp. 81–94
  • Whittall, Arnold, "Peter Grimes" in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Three, pp. 978–81. London: Macmillan Publishers, Inc. 1998 ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5

External links

10th Helpmann Awards

The 10th Annual Helpmann Awards for live performance in Australia were held on 6 September 2010 at the Sydney Opera House.

2005 Laurence Olivier Awards

The 2005 Laurence Olivier Awards were held in 2005 in London celebrating excellence in West End theatre by the Society of London Theatre.

2010 Laurence Olivier Awards

The 2010 Olivier Awards were held on 21 March 2010 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

Anthony Ward

Anthony Ward (born 1957) is a British theatre designer specializing in set and costume design. He studied theatre design at Wimbledon School of Art.He has designed productions for the Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Donmar Warehouse and the Almeida Theatre. Recent productions include the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s play Sweeney Todd, directed by Jonathan Kent (Chichester Festival Theatre/Adelphi Theatre), Posh (Royal Court/Duke of York Theatre), Enron (Royal Court/Chichester Festival Theatre). Ward's West End musical credits include My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, Oliver! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Ward designed Sam Mendes' inaugural production, Assassins, at the Donmar Warehouse and Mary Stuart, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, which transferred to the West End and Broadway and received a Tony Award for Best Costume Design.

Opera productions include productions of Gloriana and Peter Grimes directed by Phyllida Lloyd for Opera North, and Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria directed by Adrian Noble for the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence.

For dance he designed Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! (Sadler’s Wells and UK tour) and most recently The Nutcracker for Nikolaj Hübbe at the Royal Danish Ballet.

Benjamin Britten

Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten (22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945).

Born in Lowestoft, Suffolk, the son of a dentist, Britten showed talent from an early age. He studied at the Royal College of Music in London and privately with the composer Frank Bridge. Britten first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy was Born in 1934. With the premiere of Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to international fame. Over the next 28 years, he wrote 14 more operas, establishing himself as one of the leading 20th-century composers in the genre. In addition to large-scale operas for Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden, he wrote "chamber operas" for small forces, suitable for performance in venues of modest size. Among the best known of these is The Turn of the Screw (1954). Recurring themes in his operas include the struggle of an outsider against a hostile society and the corruption of innocence.

Britten's other works range from orchestral to choral, solo vocal, chamber and instrumental as well as film music. He took a great interest in writing music for children and amateur performers, including the opera Noye's Fludde, a Missa Brevis, and the song collection Friday Afternoons. He often composed with particular performers in mind. His most frequent and important muse was his personal and professional partner, the tenor Peter Pears; others included Kathleen Ferrier, Jennifer Vyvyan, Janet Baker, Dennis Brain, Julian Bream, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Mstislav Rostropovich. Britten was a celebrated pianist and conductor, performing many of his own works in concert and on record. He also performed and recorded works by others, such as Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, Mozart symphonies, and song cycles by Schubert and Schumann.

Together with Pears and the librettist and producer Eric Crozier, Britten founded the annual Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, and he was responsible for the creation of Snape Maltings concert hall in 1967. In his last year, he was the first composer to be given a life peerage.

Jonathan Summers

Jonathan Summers (born 2 October 1946) is an Australian operatic baritone. He sang the role of Captain Balstrode in the 1980 recording of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes which won a Grammy award for Best Opera recording.

Lance Ryan

Lance Ryan (born 1 May 1971) is a Canadian operatic tenor, who has worked from Germany since 2005. He is known for singing Siegfried in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, which he performed at opera houses in Europe including the Bayreuth Festival. He performed the tile roles of Verdi's Otello and Britten's Peter Grimes.

Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production

The Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production is an annual award presented by The Society of London Theatre in recognition of achievements in commercial British theatre. The awards were established as the Society of West End Theatre Awards in 1976, and, renamed in 1984 in honour of English actor Lord Olivier.

Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera

The Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera is an annual award presented by The Society of London Theatre in recognition of achievements in commercial British theatre. The awards were established as the Society of West End Theatre Awards in 1976, and, renamed in 1984 in honour of English actor Lord Olivier.


The Ländler (German pronunciation: [ˈlɛntlɐ]) is a folk dance in 34 time which was popular in Austria, Bavaria, German Switzerland, and Slovenia at the end of the 18th century.

It is a partner dance which strongly features hopping and stamping. It might be purely instrumental or have a vocal part, sometimes featuring yodeling.

When dance halls became popular in Europe in the 19th century, the Ländler was made quicker and more elegant, and the men shed the hobnail boots which they wore to dance it. Along with a number of other folk dances from Germany and Bohemia, it is thought to have contributed to the evolution of the waltz.

A number of classical composers wrote or included Ländler in their music, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner. In several of his symphonies Gustav Mahler replaced the menuet with a Ländler. The Carinthian folk tune quoted in Alban Berg's Violin Concerto is a Ländler, and another features in Act II of his opera Wozzeck. The "German Dances" of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn also resemble Ländler. Josef Lanner (1801–1843) wrote several Ländlers. It was he—along with Johann Strauss I and Johann Strauss II—that helped popularize the waltz in Vienna and elsewhere. The Johann Strauss Jr, Waltz, Tales from the Vienna Woods, features a zither playing in the style of a Ländler. Britten's Peter Grimes features a Ländler in the scene where a dance night is occurring in the Hall.

The Sound of Music Broadway musical, the later film, as well as the American and British live TV broadcasts The Sound of Music Live! (2013) and The Sound of Music Live (2015) all features a scene where the protagonists Maria and Captain von Trapp dance a Ländler. The instrumental tune used in that sequence is a 34 time re-arrangement of the more polka-like "The Lonely Goatherd." Compare this one to the "Dornbacher" Ländler by Lanner, and one will hear many similarities. The choreographers for the motion picture researched the traditional Austrian folk dance and integrated it into the choreography of the Ländler danced in the film. The same (The Sound of Music) Ländler is played by 2 or 3 zithers, during the rehearsal for the Salzburg Music Festival as well.

Mad scene

A mad scene is an enactment of insanity in an opera or play. It was a popular convention of Italian and French opera in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

Mad scenes were often created as a way to offer star singers a chance to show off their abilities, though many of them are also very dramatic. The vocal writing is often exciting and highly demanding, requiring immense skill. Most mad scenes were composed for the soprano voice, but there are examples for the baritone and the tenor.

They are most popularly associated with works of the bel canto period, though examples may also be found in earlier works, such as George Frederick Handel's Orlando and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Idomeneo. Almost all mad scenes were composed for either opere serie or opere semiserie; Gaetano Donizetti was probably the most famous exponent of the form.

The convention of writing mad scenes largely died out after the bel canto era, as composers sought to inject more realism into their operas. More recently, some composers have returned to the form for dramatic effect, most notably Benjamin Britten in the final act of Peter Grimes.

Similar mad scene techniques have also appeared in ballets, such as Giselle.

The modern musical theatre has also been influenced by the operatic mad scene, as evidenced in Sweeney Todd and Sunset Boulevard.

Montagu Slater

Charles Montagu Slater (23 September 1902 – 19 December 1956) was an English poet, novelist, playwright, journalist, critic and librettist.

Peter Grimes (film)

Peter Grimes is a 1964 television play broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It was based on the opera by Benjamin Britten and directed by Christopher Muir.It aired as part of Wednesday Theatre.

Peter Pears

Sir Peter Neville Luard Pears ( PEERZ; 22 June 1910 – 3 April 1986) was an English tenor. His career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, his personal and professional partner for nearly forty years.

Pears' musical career started slowly. He was at first unsure whether to concentrate on playing or singing, and despite the efforts of some of his friends, it was not until he met Britten in 1937 that he threw himself wholeheartedly into singing. Once he and Britten were established as a partnership, the composer wrote many concert and operatic works with Pears's voice in mind, and the singer created roles in more than ten operas by his partner. In the concert hall, Pears and Britten were celebrated recitalists, known in particular for their performances of lieder by Schubert and Schumann. Together they recorded most of the works written for Pears by Britten, as well as a wide range of music by other composers. Working with other musicians, Pears sang an extensive repertoire of music from four centuries, from the Tudor period to the most modern times.

With Britten, Pears was a co-founder of the Aldeburgh Festival in 1947 and the Britten-Pears School in 1972. After Britten died in 1976, Pears remained an active participant in the festival and the school, where he was director of singing. His own voice had a distinctive timbre, not to all tastes, but such was his musical skill that he could use the voice to good effect in many styles of music.

Rebecca de Pont Davies

Rebecca de Pont Davies is a British mezzo-soprano who has performed with English National Opera and Welsh National Opera, and at the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, among others.

Davies was born and educated in Blackheath, and is the sister of the screenwriter William Davies and the television producer Michael Davies. She has been diagnosed with Graves' disease. Davies went straight from school to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she completed the four year Associate of the Guildhall School of Music (AGSM) course and the two year Opera Course for which she was awarded a full scholarship before becoming a Company Artist for English National Opera. Here her roles included Ottavia in The Coronation of Poppea, Ulrica in A Masked Ball, Mistress Quickly in Falstaff, Annina in Der Rosenkavalier, Theatre Dresser/Schoolboy/Groom/Girl’s Mother in Lulu, Mrs Sedley and Auntie in Peter Grimes, Bronka in The Passenger, Marya in War and Peace and Ruth in the Mike Leigh production of The Pirates of Penzance.Davies’s roles in other productions include Marchioness in La fille du régiment for Teatro Real in Madrid, Auntie in Peter Grimes for Deutsche Oper Berlin, Prakriti's mother in the premiere of Wagner Dream for Dutch National Opera and later for Welsh National Opera; Second Maid in Elektra for Dutch National Opera; Witch in Hänsel und Gretel; Herodias in Salome in Bielefeld; Mrs Sedley in Peter Grimes for Deutsche Oper am Rhein and the Liceu in Barcelona; Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande in Essen; Jack’s Mother in Into the Woods; Beroe in The Bassarids, Old Lady in Sunday in the Park with George, and Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for Théâtre du Châtelet; Mrs Sedley in Peter Grimes, Maddalena in Rigoletto and Klytämnestra in Elektra for Opera North; French Mother in Death in Venice for the Glyndebourne Festival Opera (filmed by the BBC); Katisha in The Mikado in a co-production between Scottish Opera and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow; Kabanicha in Káťa Kabanová for Teatro Regio in Turin and Auntie in Peter Grimes for Teatro Nacional de São Carlos in Lisbon.Davies made her Royal Opera House début as Old Sister 2 in Babette's Feast in the Linbury Studio Theatre, and for them has also sung Schwertleite in Die Walküre, Second Esquire in Parsifal, Aunt Kaye in the world premiere of Anna Nicole and Hostess of the Inn in Boris Godunov.Davies’s performances in concert include Judith Weir’s The Consolations of Scholarship with the Lontano Ensemble, Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo and Siete canciones populares españolas with the Symphony Nova Scotia and performances with the BBC Proms, London Sinfonietta, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Her recordings include Falstaff with English National Opera and String, Paper, Wood by Ronald Corp.

Davies is married to the singer and writer Jessica Walker.

Sinfonia da Requiem

Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20, for orchestra is a symphony written by Benjamin Britten in 1940 at the age of 26. It was one of several works commissioned from different composers by the Japanese government to mark the 紀元二千六百年記念行事 (2600th anniversary) of the founding of the Emperor of Japan (taken to be 11 February 660 BCE from birth of Emperor Jimmu). The Japanese government rejected the Sinfonia for its use of Latin titles from the Catholic Requiem for its three movements and for its somber overall character, but it was received positively at its world premiere in New York under John Barbirolli. A performance in Boston under Serge Koussevitzky led to the commission of the opera Peter Grimes from the Koussevitzky Music Foundations.

The Sinfonia is Britten's largest purely orchestral work for the concert hall. It was his first major orchestral work that did not include a soloist and, according to musicologist Peter Evans, marks the peak of his early writing in this idiom. Unlike many of Britten's works from this time, it has remained popular and continues to be programmed on orchestral concerts.

The Angelic Conversation (film)

The Angelic Conversation is a 1985 arthouse drama film directed by Derek Jarman. Its tone is set by the juxtaposition of slow moving photographic images and Shakespeare's sonnets read by Judi Dench. The film consists primarily of homoerotic images and opaque landscapes through which two men take a journey into their own desires.

Jarman himself described the film as "a dream world, a world of magic and ritual, yet there are images there of the burning cars and radar systems, which remind you there is a price to be paid in order to gain this dream in the face of a world of violence."The soundtrack to the film was composed and performed by Coil, and it was released as an album of the same name. In 2008 Peter Christopherson of Coil (with David Tibet, Othon Mataragas and Ernesto Tomasini) performed a new live soundtrack to the movie during a special screening at the Turin Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

The film's music track also includes Benjamin Britten's "Sea Interludes" from Peter Grimes, performed by The Chorus and Orchestra of The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, conducted by Colin Davis.

The Borough (poem)

The Borough is a collection of poems by George Crabbe published in 1810. Written in heroic couplets, the poems are arranged as a series of 24 letters, covering various aspects of borough life and detailing the stories of certain inhabitants’ lives.

Of the letters, the best known is that of Peter Grimes in Letter XXII, which formed the basis for Benjamin Britten’s opera of the same name. Letter XXI describes Abel Keene, a village schoolmaster and then a merchant's clerk who was led astray, lost his place and finally hanged himself.The poem was begun in 1804, three years before the publication of The Parish Register, and demonstrates a clear development in Crabbe’s writing between the pastoral concerns shown in The Village, and the concentration on the life stories of individuals as seen in the Tales.

This England (album)

This England is a classical music album by the Oregon Symphony under the artistic direction of Carlos Kalmar, released by Dutch record label PentaTone Classics in November 2012. The album was recorded at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon, at five performances in February and May 2012. It contains works by three English 20th-century composers: Edward Elgar's Cockaigne (In London Town), Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 5, and "Four Sea Interludes" and "Passacaglia" from Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes. The recording was the orchestra's second under Kalmar's leadership, following Music for a Time of War (2011), which also included works by Britten and Vaughan Williams. This England received positive critical reception but failed to chart.

Opera and operetta
Church parables
Vocal/Choral Orchestral
Film adaptations
Named after Britten
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