“A leading light … Alden is no less a force in international opera today.”
Andrew Clark, The Financial Times
||David Alden (credit: Brian Tarr)
by Benjamin Britten
English National Opera
9 - 30 May 2009
The most significant British opera in over two centuries, Peter Grimes is a work of visceral and sustained beauty. Opening on 9 May, David Alden’s eagerly awaited new production has received rave reviews for its intensity and dramatic force. Edward Gardner conducts the electrifying score while four Intermusica singers perform in the production: Felicity Palmer as Mrs Sedley; Matthew Best as Swallow; Leigh Melrose as Ned Keane; and Michael Colvin as Bob Boles. Peter Grimes runs until the end of May at the Coliseum.
Full cast list
Stuart Skelton Peter Grimes
Amanda Roocroft Ellen Orford
Gerald Finley Captain Balstrode
Rebecca de Pont Davies Auntie
Gilliam Ramm first niece
Mairéad Buicke second niece
Michael Colvin Bob Boles
Matthew Best Swallow
Felicity Palmer Mrs Sedley
Stuart Kale Revd Horace Adams
Leigh Melrose Ned Keene
Darren Jeffery Hobson
Benny Gur John
Stefano Gressieux Dr Crabbe
Chorus of townspeople and fishermen
David Alden director
Edward Gardner conductor
Orchestra of the English National Opera
"...the really scary thing about Alden’s production is the way in which these assorted grotesques morph into a single entity – a brutal, unstoppable, force moved about the stage like a shoal of carnivorous fish. The climactic manhunt is the alcohol-fuelled by-product of a party in which Alden lays on a hellish vision of degenerating middle-England. The Union Jacks come out, and so does the hatred of a united national front. And the ENO Chorus – nothing short of sensational throughout the evening – are now simply overwhelming.
So, a visceral, highly charged evening driven from the tiller with tremendous passion and perception by Edward Gardner drawing playing from the ENO Orchestra that opened our ears as well as our hearts and more than confirmed the company’s ownership of this great piece."
Edward Seckerson, the Independent, 5 stars
“Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears returned to England from the US in 1942 with plans for Peter Grimes, to be based on George Crabbe's poem The Borough, already fermenting. They knew it would not be an easy homecoming, and it's the hypocritical world of provincial Britain during the second world war that is so disturbingly evoked in David Alden's outstanding new production of Grimes for English National Opera.
Alden's view is pitiless, unsparing, and presented with immaculate stagecraft….a very special ENO show indeed.”
Andrew Clements, 5 stars, the Guardian
"People once paid to watch freaks in circuses. But in David Alden’s compellingly creepy new Peter Grimes for English National Opera, the freaks spill out from every corner of Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece.
Mrs Sedley (Felicity Palmer, brilliantly grotesque) is a drug-addled, scandal-mongering Miss Marple lookalike... The apothecary Ned Keene is turned by the characterful Leigh Melrose into a pervy spiv.
“Now comes an interpretation from the American director, David Alden, that is intensely theatrical, deeply musical and, at the same time, completely at odds with the work’s performance tradition.
As we might expect from Alden, who has a history of provocative work at ENO, his Grimes is not a literal portrait of Suffolk community life: Paul Steinberg’s sets offer no fishing paraphernalia and the sea is implied rather than seen. Nor is it a timeless vision of man, mob and universe: Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s costumes are very 1940s, and the pub scene features a typically English fancy dress competition. No, the Grimes we see here is a nightmare – and, like all nightmares, the participants are instantly recognisable while behaving in a way that is frightening and threatening.
…no one can fault the technical finesse with which he translates his idea to the stage or the expressionistic verve with which it comes to life. His protagonist is the chorus, choreographed alternately as a shoal of fish, feverishly swirling and huddling, and as an impenetrable wall against which the principals are defined.”
Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 5 stars
...the real strength of Alden’s production (well served by Paul Steinberg’s claustrophobic corrugated sets and Turneresque skyscapes) is that it shows Grimes gradually being destroyed by the pressure of being the only man with proper human feelings in this gallery of freaks. He starts behaving exactly as his persecutors accuse him of doing. Nothing demonstrates that more effectively than Alden’s chilling staging of the apprentice’s death — as the indirect result of the villagers’ manhunt."
Richard Morrison, the Times
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