Most opera on disc tries, vainly, to take the listener into the theatre; this performance bypasses the stage and transports the listener to the Suffolk coast, to the very source of the action itself. Not only can you hear the ebb and flow of the tide in every bar, but you can smell the salt water pulsing through the score's veins.
Langridge's performance as the fisherman estranged from his community is simply unsurpassable. Listening to "Now the great bear and Pleiades..." or the final "mad" scene can be a harrowing and emotional experience. Langridge also brings to the role an innocence, a childishness, which both reviles and yet earns sympathy - Langridge's Grimes is no monster, he is vulnerable and frightened. In short, his Grimes is human.
Alan Opie's Captain Balstrode is also worthy of commendation; more sympathetic than some interpretations, it allows the character to stand more apart from the powerful chorus in his relationship with the doomed Grimes.
The chorus itself, as the voice of the Borough, is thrilling in its menace; as threatening and unpredictable in its behaviour as the sea itself. It is they, and not the waves, which wash over the dead Grimes, closing as though nothing had ever disturbed them.
The only slight doubt concerns Janice Watson's Ellen Orford; she sings beautifully, but her tone is too lovely for a widowed schoolteacher with grown-up children; compare her rendition on "Embriodery in childhood..." with that of Heather Harper under Colin Davis on Phillips and you might see what I mean. However, like Opie, she does succeed in separating herself from the voice of the Borough, and provides a believable object for Grimes' desires.
In all, this is a powerful cast with strong orchestral and choral support, which, given the excellent recording quality and two-disc price (opposed to the composer's own three-disc set), must make a top recommendation for this materpiece of twentieth century opera.