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Britten - Peter Grimes (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series)

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Metropolitan Opera's acclaimed Live in High-Definition series, which projects live performances into theaters across the globe, has met with unprecedented critical and commercial success and has made opera convenient and affordable to millions of viewers worldwide. Now, EMI Classics is proud to collaborate with The Met to release 6 new DVDs made from these broadcast performances.

"The more vicious the society, the more vicious the individual." (Benjamin Britten) Anthony Dean Griffey and Patricia Racette captivate in John Doyle's new production of
Britten's tortured masterpiece. Donald Runnicles leads the Met Orchestra in what the Boston Globe called "an inspired performance . . . full of passion and commitment yet free of bombast."

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Few modern operas can match Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes for harrowing intensity wedded to brilliant music. Grimes is a fisherman whose young apprentices meet with unfortunate accidents, making him suspected of murder by his mean-spirited neighbors. At the end, Grimes’ psyche snaps and, suicidal, he rows out to sea to find oblivion under the waves. For a generation of opera-goers, the role of Grimes was defined by Jon Vickers, whose huge voice and overwhelming intensity embodied the loner struggling for self-preservation in a bigoted, conformist environment. In this new MET production, Grimes is the sterling American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, who approaches the role from a very different, but also effective, angle. He’s a light-voiced lyric tenor, at the opposite end of the tonal spectrum from Vicker’s heroic voice. But so was the originator of the role, Peter Pears, and like Pears, Griffey projects an antihero enmeshed in self-doubt, confusion and bewilderment. He also sings and acts well; the voice easily encompassing Britten’s writing, the stage demeanor effective. Soprano Patricia Racette is a terrific Ellen Orford, the widow who tries to understand and help the hapless Grimes. Her bright-voiced portrayal makes her a profoundly sympathetic character. The entire cast is excellent in what is essentially an ensemble opera, though some manage to stand out: Felicity Palmer as the malevolent Mrs. Sedley, whose "Murder most foul" drips with venom; mezzo Jill Grove as "Auntie," John Del Carlo as a Swallow to remember, and Teddy Tahu Rhodes who brings welcome nuance to the role of Ned Keene, are just a few of the many worthy of mention. Donald Runiccles conducts brilliantly; the responsive MET orchestra and chorus wonderful in an opera where they are of crucial importance.

Unfortunately, in an opera whose orchestral interludes and depictions of the ever-present sea this production gives no hint of fishing boats, sea spray or the other aspects of the seaside village. Instead, producer John Doyle and set designer Scott Pask have built a full-stage wall of dark houses, through whose doors and windows different characters sing or watch. This enhances the claustrophobic nature of the narrative; a physical analogue to the way Grimes psyche is hemmed in by a stifling environment. But it also removes the realism of Britten’s conception and its sense of place while enforcing a static stage picture. Some of this is mitigated by TV director Gary Halvorson’s fluid camera work and closer observations of the singers, making the DVD more involving than the production was in the theatre. --Dan Davis

Peter Grimes is an all-regions disc in 16:9 ratio. Sound options include PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 Surround. Sung in English, subtitles include English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Extras include Backstage at the Met with the singers and production team involved in the opera.


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Anthony Dean Griffey, Patricia Racette, Anthony Michaels-Moore, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
  • Directors: Donald Runnicles (Conductor)
  • Format: Classical, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Classics
  • DVD Release Date: September 16, 2008
  • Run Time: 168 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001DHE9K6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,221 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Britten - Peter Grimes (The Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. John W. Rippon VINE VOICE on July 31, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
How very lucky we are to have the release of the TV movie version dated 1969 of Britten's Peter Grimes. All the more so because we have the composer Benjamin Britten conducting and his partner Peter Pears who created the title role of Peter in what is certainly one of the greatest operas of the twentieth century. Pears projection of the character is superb; a troubled, confused yet resolute individual trying to fit in the village. The excellent Heather Harper as Ellen tries to reach Peter but can't. Ann Robson is commendable as the opium-dazed Mrs. Sedley the village gossip who with the drunk, failed Methodist minister Bob Boles turns the village against Grimes. All the singer/actors are very well cast. Because of the constraints of time and space, the opera had to be filmed in very small quarters on an adaptable, rotational ramp set cleverly conceived by David Myerscough-Jones. So well done that it belies the crampted space and one doesn't miss the opera house. The marvelous sea interludes were played against a series of absract images projected on gauze. The whole effect is of a misty, oppressive, constantly changing sea and the fragility of the lives that try to tame it. This is a beautiful work, beautifully done.
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The first viewing of this, one of my favorite operas, worked me up as though I were experiencing it for the first time. I've seen Vickers, I've heard Pears, I've seen a number of video performance by others (including Chris Ventris who was superb) but Griffey offers the finest Grimes in my experience. The sweetness and clarity of tone he brings to the role adds a level that enhanced the character to a degree almost unimaginable. The detail of the acting of each role simply mind boggling and completely believable. Often one gets tremendous "acting" performances which can make me forgive some vocal shortcomings, but here each role was sung with such precision and beauty and music and text wedded sublimely.

I also enjoyed Dessay's introduction, especially just as the performance was ready to
begin as she warns us to settle in for "the sad, horrible story of Peter Grimes."

It's a different beast watching it on screen than in the house, (of course), and I wonder if this is one of those productions better served by seeing it on screen than on stage. As a "movie" the set was simply tremendous and a perfect vehicle to display all the many characters that inhabit the Borough. The screen captures an intimacy not quite possible if one was forced to stare at the set the entire time, our eyes relieved and training on specific details rather than having to pick them out from the "whole." Generally, I'm less
inclined to like this than live, but this one really, really worked.

Patricia Racette is simply stunning as Ellen. No singer today sings in English like this girl. Every word, even on some of those (few) high notes was understandable and filled with meaning.
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I just got the DVD and was blown away by it. I saw this performance on TV (black & while, rabbit ears, lots of snow) back around 1970 and had fond memories of it. I'm not sure how much restoration the recording required but the video is very good and the mono audio is fine. Peter Pears, of course, is incomparable and the rest of the cast is superb as are the staging and overall performance.
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This is the only opera written after Puccini's TURANDOT that I consider to be an opera, let alone a masterpiece. If you enjoy GRIMES, my recommendation is to get this superb telecast plus the one with Vickers. Two very different interpretations that cannot be equalled today in any opera house. Britten wrote GRIMES for Pears so we have that link here as well as Britten's marvelous conducting. Vickers' Grimes is more tragic while Pears is pathetic but both deserve to be seen as two sides of one coin. Picture quality, sound, and supporting cast are top-rate.
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In my opinion, this film is as close to the definitive staging of Britten's masterpiece as one can hope to get. If only Peter Pears was 25 years younger! When the opera was premiered in 1945, he was 35, and Joan Cross, who played Ellen Orford, was 45. I think that this is the ideal age for Grimes and Ellen. For a casual viewer, it would be hard to make sense from the story of the opera, when the title character is obviously older than anyone else in the village (as in this film). Nevertheless, we have to be very grateful for the opportunity to see Pears in the role of Grimes. As to the question of whether he was too urbane and sophisticated for this character... Well, Jon Vickers has made Grimes more conventionally operatic and "heroic", but Pears knew better what it is all about (being present at the conception of the opera). I particularly liked his very fine and revealing interpretation of the Passacaglia.

The advantages of this production are particularly clear compared with some recent stagings of the opera (e.g., one at the Met in 2007, which I found terrible). It also seems to me that the attempts to transfer the action to the 20th century (e.g., Opera North) are misplaced. What about buying apprentices from a workhouse? In fact, the universal meanings of this opera become more, rather than less, clear when it is put into its proper historical and geographical context.

There are some inevitable technical slips related to a life performance (e.g., the Nieces singing "together we are safe" are not in fact together). For a perfect musical rendering, one should go Britten's Decca recording of 1958. The current film provides a perfect complement to this recording and an incomparable historical document.
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