[Met Performance] CID:352389
New Production
Peter Grimes {65} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/28/2008., Sirius Broadcast live
Streamed at metopera.org

(Debuts: John Doyle, Scott Pask, Ann Hould-Ward, Leah Partridge, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Logan William Erickson

Metropolitan Opera House
February 28, 2008 Broadcast/Streamed

New Production


Peter Grimes............Anthony Dean Griffey
Ellen Orford............Patricia Racette
Captain Balstrode.......Anthony Michaels-Moore
Mrs. Sedley.............Felicity Palmer
Auntie..................Jill Grove
Niece...................Leah Partridge [Debut]
Niece...................Erin Morley
Hobson..................Dean Peterson
Swallow.................John Del Carlo
Bob Boles...............Greg Fedderly
Rev. Horace Adams.......Bernard Fitch
Ned Keene...............Teddy Tahu Rhodes [Debut]
John....................Logan William Erickson [Debut]

Villagers: Roger Andrews, David Asch, Kenneth Floyd
    David Frye, Jason Hendrix, Mary Hughes,
    Robert Maher, Timothy Breese Miller,
    Jeffrey Mosher, Richard Pearson, Mark Persing,
    Mitchell Sendrowitz, Daniel Clark Smith,
    Lynn Taylor, Joseph Turi

Conductor...............Donald Runnicles

Production..............John Doyle [Debut]
Set Designer............Scott Pask [Debut]
Costume Designer........Ann Hould-Ward [Debut]
Lighting Designer.......Peter Mumford

Production a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wilmer J. Thomas, Jr.

Broadcast live on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio
Streamed at metopera.org

Peter Grimes received seven performances this season

Production photos of Peter Grimes by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Fred Cohn in the May 2008 issue of OPERA NEWS

John Doyle's new staging of "Peter Grimes" for the Met gives full value to the work's ambiguity and strangeness.

Tyrone Guthrie's epochal 1967 Met production of "Peter Grimes" introduced Jon Vickers's titanic portrayal of the doomed fisherman to New York and served the house for more than thirty years thereafter. But it was clearly time to bring new insights to this seminal work, and the assignment to stage a new Met "Grimes" fell to director John Doyle, celebrated for his award-winning Sondheim productions in London and on Broadway. Doyle's "Grimes" bowed at the Met on February 28.

While the Guthrie staging abounded in naturalistic detail, Doyle's interpretation veers toward abstraction. The mode is often hieratic, with characters faced forward to direct their thoughts toward the audience rather than to each other. It is as if the whole work were a continuation of the trial in the prologue, with all the participants presenting evidence about Grimes's complicated nature. Scott Pask's unit set consists of a proscenium-height wall, covered with weathered gray clap-boards, that breaks apart and reassembles to suggest the opera's various settings. Shutters on its upper stories swing open to reveal various characters, trapped like objects in the compartments of a Joseph Cornell box. Here they are explicitly removed from the action and turned into witnesses of the fisherman's misdeeds.

It's a dispassionate view of the work, lacking the operatic sweep of its predecessor but challenging the audience to weigh the complex morality of Grimes's case from first moment to last. The austerely handsome decor and the monochromatic costumes of Ann Hould-Ward make tangible the oppressiveness of the social milieu. The production's one miscalculation comes at the very end, when the dark wall recedes, revealing figures in modern dress posed on scaffolding behind the drama's participants, as if to remind us that the intolerance depicted in the opera is still part of our world - an obvious, even corny, gesture. But before that moment, Doyle's staging gives full value to the work's ambiguity, and strangeness.

(Editor's Note: The Editorial & Communications Department of the Metropolitan Opera has confirmed that the final set change seen on [the first] night of "Peter Grimes" was eliminated with the cooperation of John Doyle and Scott Pask as of the second performance of the run, on March 3)]

If the production itself gave off the chill of a damp seaside winter, the warm, beating heart of the premiere came in the form of Anthony Dean Griffey's fisherman. This was an interpretation, far different from Vickers's raging, seething force of nature, of Grimes as man-child, no more mature emotionally than his apprentices. His sense of himself as a man seemed so unformed that he could only assert it through bullying: sexual attraction was out of his ken. Ellen Orford was, as he guessed, drawn to him through "pity," and he to her in search of respectability: when he put his hand on her shoulder, she drew away, in fright or perhaps revulsion. One could hear the voice of a child in Griffey's sweet, lyric tone, and his singing, full of beautifully gauged mezza voce effects, revealed that no matter how brutally Grimes might behave, his soul was full of tenderness.

"Grimes" is an ensemble opera if ever there was one, and here the Met showed its strength, casting the opera beautifully down to the smallest role. Patricia Racette was a sympathetic Ellen, in a portrayal devoid of sugarcoating, an approach that allowed for her unwitting collusion in Grimes's tragedy. In some of her house assignments from the nineteenth-century repertory, Racette's bright soprano can lack the ideal range of colors: here, the brightness of the tone, the purity of its production and the artist's sensitivity to musical values told us all we needed to know.

In Doyle's rendering, Balstrobe is a less overtly compassionate figure than expected; Anthony Michaels-Moore portrayed him as an ordinary man whose humane instincts come to the fore when needed. Felicity Palmer was a vivid Mrs. Sedley, snarling her arietta "Murder most foul" with unctuous malignancy. John Del Carlo, a singer who seemingly can't make a false step, threw himself into the absurdist comedy of Swallow's Act III pursuit of the "nieces." The role of Auntie might have been written with Jill Grove's fruity mezzo in mind. And the athletic presence that New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, in an effective house debut, brought to Ned Keene stood in provocative contrast to the apothecary's moral weakness.

Donald Runnicles's reading was of a piece with Doyle's conception - an ongoing presentation of the case, tautly argued. In the sea interludes and elsewhere, the playing of the Met Orchestra was beyond cavil. No opera, save "Boris Godunov," makes greater demands on its chorus than Peter Grimes, and the evening became a showpiece for the Met's choristers, revitalized this season under Donald Palumbo. The overpowering sound they produced on the climactic cries of "Grimes" registered as the hammer-strokes of doom.

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