[Met Performance] CID:251430

Peter Grimes
Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, November 21, 1977

Debut : Donald Peck

Peter Grimes (32)
Benjamin Britten | Montagu Slater
Peter Grimes
Jon Vickers

Ellen Orford
Heather Harper

Captain Balstrode
Donald Gramm

Mrs. Sedley
Jean Kraft

Lili Chookasian

Alma Jean Smith

Betsy Norden

Andrij Dobriansky

Morley Meredith

Bob Boles
Paul Franke

Rev. Horace Adams
James Atherton

Ned Keene
Gene Boucher

William Mellow

Nadyne Brewer

Donald Peck [Debut]

Adam Wallach

John Pritchard

Tyrone Guthrie

Tanya Moiseiwitsch

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Stage Director
Bodo Igesz

Peter Grimes received five performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Harriett Johnson in the New York Post


The taste and swell of the sea is in Benjamin Britten's "Peter Grimes" and with Britain's John Pritchard conducting the opera for the first time last night at the Metropolitan Opera there was also grandeur. The opera returned to the repertory after an absence of five years.


It may sound like a contradiction in terms to speak of the orchestra as blazing in its projection of the moody music but in Act I, especially, that was the feeling, as Pritchard roused the orchestra to its very best.

With Canadian-born Jon Vickers in the title role; with Britain's Heather Harper singing Ellen Orford for the first time and with a strong, supporting cast, this "Peter Grimes" was a night to remember, the best ever in my Met experience.


By musical alchemy Britten has conjured up through jagged or billowing phrases; through eerie twists of tune in the woodwinds; though wailing in the music for Grimes-the sight and sound of the sea. Fisherman Grimes, with his fantasies and his crudeness, is sea-born and his music is infinitely right for him.

Yet in all Britten's orchestral evocation, there is never imitation; instead a kind of mystical synthesis deriving from sea suggestiveness. The music rises and falls like a great or lesser tide and so do the magnificent choruses which soar around or pierce through the wracked emotions of Grimes. The Met chorus outdid themselves. They sang superbly.

Pritchard's fierce domination inspired everybody. Tanya Moiseiwitsch's sets and costumes for the 1967 Tyrone Guthrie production never looked better especially enhanced by Gil Wechsler's new lighting which was very evocative.

In playing the psychotic Grimes, who strikes the girl he loves, revels In weird flights of imagination and is cruel most of the time to his boy apprentice-Vickers is ideally cast. He sang in the premiere of the present production, and he remains almost certainly the strongest Grimes currently singing the role anywhere.

His voice has both the necessary' robustness and lyricism. Besides his style and histrionic ability make him able to sing cryptically of the stars as he does in Act I, or cry out in agony as in his final scene with equal credibility.

Others from the 1967 premiere who are better than ever are Lili Chookasian as Auntie; Paul Franke as Bob Boles; Gene Boucher as Ned Keene.

Donald Gramm was outstanding as the forthright Captain Balstrode while Morley Meredith as Swallow sang in rich, sonorous tones meanwhile making the unsympathetic lawyer an arresting figure.

Miss Harper's Ellen was portly which suited the role of the local schoolmistress and her free, serene voice adapted well to the part.

Others in the first-rate cast were Alma Jean Smith and Betsy Norden as two nieces, Adam Wallach as the Boy; Jean Kraft as the gossipy Mrs. Sedley.


Britten lived out his life in Aldeburgh where he founded a music festival that continues after his death. He passionately loved the sea and never wanted to be far from it.

The small fishing village called "The Borough," in Crabbe's poem from which Slater's libretto was fashioned, closely resembles Aldeburgh.

"Peter Grimes" as music drama rings grandly or bitterly true, from its folk-like tunes to its outward-bound expansiveness. It is an uneven opera. But whether at its best or second best it never lets us forget the flow of its basic inspiration. And knowing Britten's heritage that's easy to understand.

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