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Britten Peter Grimes ENO 2009, Coliseum, London 9 May 2009



Peter Grimes - Stuart Skelton
Ellen Orford - Amanda Roocroft
Captain Balstrode - Gerald Finley
Auntie - Rebecca de Pont Davies
Swallow - Matthew Best
Ned Keene - Leigh Melrose
Bob Boles - Michael Colvin
Mrs Sedley - Felicity Palmer
Nieces - Gillian Ramm & Mairéad Buicke
Hobson - Darren Jeffery
Reverend Horace Adams - Stuart Kale
John, Grimes's apprenctice - Benny Gur


Chorus & Orchestra of ENO
Chorus master: Martin Merry
Conductor : Edward Gardner
Director : David Alden
Designer : Paul Steinberg
Costume Designer : Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Lighting Designer : Adam Silverman
Choreographer : Maxine Braham

Photographer : Clive Barda


Arriving for the press night round from the back of the Coliseum, we were met by the sonorous sound of the full throated augmented ENO chorus in rehearsal. It boded well! Less than half the members are to be seen in these approved photos, but they - and the orchestra - were the glory of this revival of Britten's imperishable masterpiece.

There is a problem for those (few) of us with vivid memories of the historic original production, just a month after the end of the War at the (then smaller, until 1996) Sadler's Wells Theatre. Are those memories a liability? In the 1945 we had no difficulty in generalising from the Suffolk coastal village as depicted to mass cruelties in the world; nowadays everything seems to have to be drastically updated to make the point: - - when dislodged from its 'quaint' historical trappings its ability to shock increases - - (MusicOMH). Paul Steinberg's settings are defiantly anti-realistic and, for us, were never helpful. Many of the characters are further "grotesqued" by Alden, especially at The Boar" (pictured top); Gerald Finley (Balstrode) writes: "- - only Grimes has a clear view about what's going on - - everyone else is slightly grotesque, so from an audience point of view I think it will be a little confrontational." Against that, the clear depiction of the fatal fall down the cliff is unequivocally demonstrated to be an accident, provoked by the villagers baying for blood.

But Musical Pointers to the music !

That was sensational and there were times (including the Interludes played against closed curtains for once) when one was inclined to close ones' eyes. With Edward Gardner at the helm, the ENO Chorus and Orchestra reached heights of power and sharp ensemble hitherto unimaginable. Stuart Skelton assumed the title role with complete assurance, and in a manner which drove out thoughts of his predecessors.

We look forward to reviewing Skelton's alternate, John Daszak, and meanwhile on archive DVD refreshing memories of the 1960s team of Britten, Pears and Harper [Decca 074 3261] "not just a fascinating historical document - - also a well-staged and often emotionally scorching production of this great, great opera" (Sky Arts).

Peter Grahame Woolf