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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 January 2009
Although the new style Met Opera DVDs have the irritating and poor quality "intermission interviews," if you skip these sections, which take place on set and destroy any sense of theatrical illusion, the opera itself is well produced with some outstanding performances. Diction and acting are generally excellent with very strong singing in the secondary roles and excellent chorus work. Although it takes some time to adjust to the set - very different from anything Britten would have sanctioned - the drama quickly captures you and the climax is more moving than any other production i have seen. The high definition transfer is excellent and the DTS recording is expansive and immediate. It's good to have this outstanding work in the budget category too, as so many opera on DVD are very expensive indeed. If only the Met did not patronize its audiences with those terrible interviews! Please can they put them as DVD extras and not integrate them into the body of the work and at least have intelligent questions and interviewers who really know what they are talking about. I know the Met is trying to embrace new audiences but tabloid TV is a very patronising way of attempting to achieve this.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 September 2010
This version of 'Peter Grimes' has a great deal to be said for it. It's been filmed live at the Met, with a strong cast, interesting set and direction and very good orchestral support. Dramatically, it is most successful, with the big moments very powerful and the more intimate ones affecting and compelling. Anthony Dean Griffey is a first-rate Grimes. He sings superbly and his acting is as good. Patricia Racette is also very fine as Ellen. All the lesser principals are at least adequate and sometimes much better than that - Felicity Palmer as Mrs. Sedley in particular is very good. And the opera is well managed by Donald Runnicles.

The set is (deliberately) oppressive - a great black wooden wall representing the high-sided shoreside huts from which nets would be hung. On these walls are doors at various levels which open to reveal the characters in the drama, so that there is the effect of constant surveillance - whatever Grimes and Ellen do, the Borough is always watching. This works well, though I did think that the oppressive blackness wasn't really right for the Sunday morning scene, when the jaunty brightness of the Morning Interlude should introduce a brief relief in the claustrophobic drama. At the end, after Grimes walks away to his solitary death out at sea, the set opens up and light - not bright, rather melancholy - flows in, and the chorus and principals walk on for the final sequence, and this works very well indeed.

So what is wrong with all of this? Nothing musically or dramatically. But why oh why did the Met feel it necessary to intersperse the drama with interviews and featurettes? Grimes rushes out into the night dragging the doomed apprentice with him, the Chorus sings 'Home? Do you call that home?', the orchestra dashes to the tumultuous end of the Storm section, the curtain falls, we feel poleaxed by the music and the drama - and immediately we see the production room and then an onstage interview with Griffey and Racette, both clearly recovering breath, so that we can hear, for example, a message from Griffey to the folks back home and his former university. All dramatic impulse is lost. Later, we switch to Aldeburgh and a bizarre night-time interview with the local cinema manager about how Britten helped save the cinema from financial ruin in the 1960s. In the Britten-Pears Decca DVD, the Interludes are supported visually by vague abstract scenes - sea or sky or a mixture - and none of the dramatic tension is lost. Why are we not given these interviews and so on (and there are interesting things in them as well as some strange stuff) as extras, so we could make our own choice about when to watch them (or not!). It seems perverse not to have done so.

But there it is. This is still a fine 'Grimes', still well worth seeing. The other bits and pieces cause frustration, but they do not mask the excellence of the musical and dramatic work.
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on 13 February 2010
Good vocal performances from a uniformly strong cast, great quality HD film (although irritating camera angles sometimes show us stage crew lurking in the wings, thus breaking the theatrical illusion), Runnicles leads the Met orchestra stupendously, and all at a bargain price. My only criticism of the production is that it is all a bit clinically clean with no sense of the landscape and climate; not one whiff of the salt air or sea apart from in the music. All the costumes look freshly washed and pressed by the wardrobe mistress - this is supposed to be a working 19th century English fishing town - where is all the mud, rain, sand and fish guts?

Unfortunately the 2 disc set is ruined by the presentation - we really do not need Natalie Dessay (great performer that she is, she can offer absolutely no insight into this opera) nervously fidgeting with cue cards and microphones, hovering in the wings to leap on performers as they step off the stage.
If the Met must insist on 'educating' us with this inane celebrity style chatter, please stick it all on the end of the disc so those who just want to watch the opera can do so. They did so with the release of Netrebko's Lucia, so why not all the other releases? Yes you can skip chapters, but we shouldn't have to!
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on 31 July 2009
This is a wonderful dvd. The production is in keeping with Britten's own expressed view that this opera was NOT about the sea but about a community and the cast is a very strong one. Anthony Dean Griffey is simply magnificent as Grimes & Patricia Racette both convincing & touching as Ellen Orford.
My only query is..why the mention of Renee Fleming in the product details?! She doesn't even do the (worse even than usual) interviews!
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on 21 July 2012
I first became aware of the work from concert performances of the four sea interludes, and bought an LP then later a CD. There was a TV performance some years ago which I watched. I was quite impressed. Whilst expanding my library I then bought this, I am overwhelmed. It is to me more of a music drama than opera. There are no nicely remembered arias, but highly dramatised passages of music and singing which progress the harrowing story forewards.
I think that this production is second to none, the lead of Anthony Dean Griffey is fabulous in both voice and acting ability. Patricia Racette is a sympathetic and understanding Ellen Orford. The other characters are a mix of vicious, or self centerd townspeople, who slowly grow to believe the worst about the flawed character that is Grimes. All are strong in voice and characterisation.
The chorus, who are worked hard by Britten, respond beautifully to the challenge and are collective stars in their own right.
I find the vertical town with its appropriately opening doors vey effective. All is darkly brooding in line with the stories atmosphere.
It is difficult to pick a highlight but the duet between Orford and Grimes after the inquest is emotionally chargd and unaccompanied.
This is not an easily dismissed performance, it is quite draining, only one other tragedy hits me in a similar manner and that is Don Carlos.
Essential for the discerning watcher/listener.
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on 7 April 2014
Please don't be put off by anyone saying the setting isn't right; the design was based on old fishing village buildings on the east coast of England and they sort of resemble later Victorian dockside buildings but in wood, with windows and doors on different levels from which time to time the singers appear. Its very effective and claustrophobic, the singing is second to none, the diction for a largely American cast brilliant. The whole set moving upstage in the final terrifyingly loud moments of the "He who despises us" chorus is breathtaking.

Enough has been said about leading roles but Felicity Palmer and Teddy Tahu Rhodes are wonderful as Mrs Sedley and Ned Keene. The vocal ensembles are tight, and the Met orchestra under Runnicles play Britten's well known score immaculately.

My only criticism is there could've been more storm effects, and Church of England ladies attending Matins on a Sunday morning would not have been wearing Catholic mantillas (!) but it's a minor detail. It's true that classic recordings and performances of this opera have been perceived as a norm, but this production really was filmed 'on a good night'. You can feel it.
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on 29 May 2014
This recording fulfilled all my expectations and being well pleased. I will therefore not hesitate to buy from them again
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on 1 February 2010
Phenominal. Saw this locally beamed live via satelite from the Met. Not a Benjamin Britten fan, but this is awsome.
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on 4 May 2009
Leaving behind the pleasing melodic flow of previous operas, with some notable exceptions twentieth century composers opted for astringency and discordancy. "Peter Grimes" is quite mild compared with some. Anyway, darkly minimalist presentation is to an extent justifiable. Here a high wooden structure stretches across the stage close to the front of it. Doors at various levels open to reveal single characters at various times while the crowd appears on the narrow stage. For me the same black set almost throughout becomes monotonous detracting from my enjoyment of the performance. (Half a star deducted.) Only during the finale does the structure split and roll away leaving the full depth of the stage with a large, mainly blue, backlit screen.
Apart from the above this production is excellent including HD picture and sound. Unwanted introductions and crass interviews can easily be skipped.
Although different, both Peter Pears and Jon Vickers have been hailed as masterly creators of the role of Grimes. It is difficult to explain why Anthony Dean Griffey improves on both of them. He does more than the obvious. There is also a subtle variety about his acting, for example the flickers of easily aroused irritability.
Grimes is not a sympathetic character. That the Borough residents are almost all petty, hidebound and hostile only makes his bitter, violent moods worse. Without the pressures of his environment would he turn into a passable human being? Perhaps, with the right medication and other treatment. The love of a good woman? Romantic moonshine!
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