At first it seems inappropriate to title a review of Hickox's Grimes as "song not drama," because he is so expressly dramatic at many points in the opera. You can't find a storm interlude more ferocious -- almost terrifying -- and there are other meaningful gestures here and there. However, there are two things Hickox does consistently that work against the drama of the story and of Britten's writing: (1) he makes all musical gestures crystal clear, and (2) he gets his singers to sing almost all lines with smooth lyricism. Now, I am normally in favor of conductors that bring out the elements of compositions (I generally like what Hickox does with the War Requiem, though the sound isn't great, and I'm crazy over his DVD conducting of Turn of the Screw); and, as Hickox proves, much of Grimes is extremely lyrical, even gorgeous. But these two practices make much of the action sound extremely stilted, sometimes ludicrous. One could blame Britten himself for some of those moments, but then one could listen to Britten's own recording and hear them worked into a dynamic, realistic whole. (Admittedly, some of Ellen's music is just too precious.) Examples are too plentiful to mention, but I will note one of the more subtle cases: Grimes's "In dreams I've built myself..." Hickox and Langridge take pains to bring out the emotion of what he's singing -- by highlighting everything. For me at least, at no time am I drawn into Peter's state, perhaps because it's a dissertation not an experience. On top of the Hickox problems (and despite the lyricism he demands), the singing itself is inferior to Britten's recording, and probably to Davis's (it has been a while since I heard it); Watson's voice some across shallow, and Langridge is often reedy and unpleasant (and his lower register is not at all musical). Williams does make some nice points with Ned Keene, Opie does some nice acting as Balstrode, and Collins sounds good. All in all, I doubt I will get rid of this recording when I get another Grimes -- there is much that is rewarding to listen to. But I found it a disappointment.