USHER HALL      18.00


This was an overwhelming and deeply moving performance of what is probably Benjamin Britten;s operatic masterpiece. The central, title role was written to be sung by Peter Pears, Britten’s life partner, and this character is deeply unheroic. Grimes feels himself to be in many ways superior to the people of the Borough, the fishing community where he lives. He thinks he is a fisherman of a special type, and that, with good fortune, he can astonish the locals and fulfil his dreams with schoolteacher Ellen, who is devoted to him.

However, at the start he is in court, as in the course of an extensive fishing expedition his boy apprentice has died of thirst, and Grimes is accused of wanton cruelty and of being responsible for the boy’s death. An open verdict is returned, but the townspeople are far from happy. As the opera progresses things get more and more unpropitious for Grimes.

Stuart Skelton is an excellent Grimes here, and the Canadian Erin Wall has a beautiful tome as Ellen. The Orchestra is the Bergen Philharmonic under Edward Gardner. This was a semi-staged production, with orchestra on stage  and singers at stage front, plus a very large choir behind the orchestra. Said choir had a tremendous impact on those occasions when they were singing as the townspeople with out for Grimes’ blood. Terrifying!

All the cast entered into their roles with gusto, such that this was maybe more enjoyable than a fully staged performance, as the audience were closely immersed in the orchestral action, the choir was singing down and at us, and the soloists seemed exposed and vulnerable at the front of the stage in a way that was very engaging. Who needs sets?

This was a deeply moving and memorable occasion, and the standing ovation was fully deserved.


Tony Challis