Magazine article The Spectator

Plato Was Right

Magazine article The Spectator

Plato Was Right

Article excerpt

Peter Grimes (Scottish Opera) Scottish Opera's revival of Peter Grimes, with an almost entirely new cast, made for a powerful evening at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. Richard Armstrong went in for an in-yer-face account of the music, so that the large orchestra, given maximum exposure, rose to climaxes of Wagnerian or more accurately Straussian volume (I was amazed to read in the programme that Britten studied the score of Der Rosenkavalier with fanatical concentration during the composition of Grimes). Certainly the work sounded both more muscular and more weighty than I have ever heard it before. The playing of the interludes was perfectly judged, too, so that while they never threatened to upstage the action, as they can do, they did come across as remarkable pieces in their own right. If one harbours grave doubts about the content of the drama, this is the performance to go to, with sonorities so thrilling and a symphonic drive so inexorable that it isn't until afterwards that the awkward questions get raised.

The cast was, as often with this company, largely triumphant as a team, without notable stars. Grimes is given a rather generalised interpretation by Jeffrey Lawton, the most individual feature being that he appears as an elderly figure. Vocally he is past his prime, so that while he never sounds strained or mannered, he produces a consistent mezzoforte which normalises the character. Ranting would be out of place, but anyone who heard and admired Jon Vickers in this role will crave for moments when one seems to be hearing a genuine visionary, and others where a wild beast appears to be stalking the stage. As an actor Lawton seems more at home here than in most of his German roles, but that isn't saying a great deal. The Ellen Orford of Amanda Thane is also a somewhat indeterminate reading, and in her case, at least on opening night, her voice possessed a curious rattle which excluded her from sounding either tender or outraged, except in her reaction to Grimes striking her, which was her strongest moment of drama. The rest of the cast are individualised more than the score deserves, thanks to the thoughtfulness of Elaine Kidd's direction of Joachim Herz's original production. The result is a picture of a community which is credible and uncondescending, so far as the libretto, and a fair amount of the music, make that possible. Anthony Arblaster's complaint, in his book Viva La Liberta, that 'A romanticised individual is pitted against a travestied community', is, it seems, taken account of and also countered on the stage. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.