Peter Grimes, Op.33 – Opera in a Prologue and three Acts to a libretto by Montagu Slater, based on the poem The Borough by George Crabbe [sung in English with Met Titles in English, German, and Spanish]
Peter Grimes – Allan Clayton
Ellen Orford – Nicole Car
Captain Balstrode – Adam Plachetka
Hobson – Harold Wilson
Swallow – Patrick Carfizzi
Mrs. Sedley – Michaela Martens
Auntie – Denyce Graves
Bob Boles – Chad Shelton
Rev. Horace Adams – Tony Stevenson
Nieces – Brandie Sutton & Maureen McKay
Ned Keene – Justin Austin
John – Brandon Chosed
Villagers – Helena Brown, Rose Benoliel, Scott Dispensa, Ned Hanlon, Jeremy Little, Patrick Miller, Steven Myles, Jonathan Scott, Tyler Simpson, Meredith Woodend & Yohan Yi
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
John Doyle – Production
Scott Pask – Set Designers
Ann Hould-Ward – Costume Designer
Peter Mumford – Lighting Designer
Projection Designer – S. Katy Tucker
Revival Stage Director – J. Knighten Smit
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 16 October, 2022
Venue: Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York City
After twelve years, Peter Grimes – Benjamin Britten’s classic and compelling portrait of a misunderstood, lonely, and rejected fisherman in a small fishing town on the east coast of England in the early nineteenth-century – the work that inaugurated a renaissance in British opera – is back at the Met. The 2008 production is the company’s third since it introduced the work in 1948, only three years after the opera’s triumphant premiere at Sadler’s Wells in London.
John Doyle’s staging, dominated by a dark, multistoried, weather-stained wall, with doors that periodically pop open to reveal some of the characters, seems as stodgy as ever, its singular advantage being that it brings the singers closer to the audience. But there is nothing stodgy about Allan Clayton’s performance as the alienated yet touching character of the title, far and away the highlight of this revival.
Along with his essentially sweet toned, but highly flexible tenor, Clayton – who made his Met debut in Brett Dean’s Hamlet last May – brings panic, poignancy, and enormous power to his multifaceted portrayal of the beleaguered loner hounded to his doom by the small mindedness of the surrounding community. His singing ranges widely, from his sharp-edged ‘And God have mercy upon me!’ to his uncommonly focused, perfectly pitched pianissimos in the mad scene. His superb performance is a vocal and dramatic tour-de-force.
As Ellen Orford, the empathetic widow and school mistress who hopes to marry Grimes and tries to defend him, Nicole Car with her bright, richly colored lyric soprano and ample acting skills is an affecting and dignified presence. Her brief, mostly a cappella ‘love duet’ with Grimes which closes the prologue, is tremendously moving, and her third Act ‘Embroidery’ aria, in which she’s forced to put her personal feelings for Grimes up against the seemingly damning evidence of his guilt, is nothing less than stunning.
Other standout performances are given by Patrick Carfizzi as Swallow, the hypocritical lawyer and magistrate who rules that the death of Grimes’s apprentice was due to ‘accidental circumstances’; Michaela Martens as a ferociously comic Mrs. Sedley, the village gossip; and Justin Austin as an animated Ned Keene, the apothecary and quack who supplies Mrs. Sedley with her pills. The Met Chorus impresses throughout as the hostile and constantly chattering residents of the town.
On the negative side are Denyce Graves’s less than persuasive portrayal of Auntie and Adam Plachetka’s stiff, gravelly voiced Captain Balstrode.
Nicholas Carter, conducting with precision and momentum, draws splendid playing, most notably in the gorgeous ‘Sea Interludes’ which are so effective at evoking the immensity and power of the ocean with all its turbulence and swellsthat there is no need for S. Katy Tucker’s video projections, as grand and glorious as they are.
Further performances on October 22, 26, and 29 (m); November 2, 5, 9, and 12 (m).
A performance from fall 2022 will be broadcast over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network on May 27, 2023.