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Peter Grimes [DVD] 
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Benjamin Brittens powerful opera Peter Grimes is considered to be one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. In this famous production by Elijah Moshinsky for The Royal Opera, filmed in 1981, Canadian tenor Jon Vickers stars as the complex and misunderstood fisherman, with Heather Harper as Ellen Orford and Norman Bailey as Bulstrode. The conductor is Sir Colin Davis, who worked for several years with the cast of this production, resulting in a masterly interweaving of characters in this gripping drama.
Elijah Moshinskys production for The Royal Opera was inspired by early Victorian photographs taken of the Suffolk coast and presents his action on a sparse stage, evocatively lit and dominated by strong performances. Canadian tenor Jon Vickers is one of the greatest Grimes of all. This is a towering performance, rough and terrifying, yet beautifully sung in the lyrical passages.
Heather Harper as Ellen Orford is
"in magnificent voice" -- Gramophone
Jon Vickers as Grimes is "One of the most riveting operatic impersonations of our day" -- Financial Times
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Top customer reviews
Here, with Elijah Moshinsky's 1980s production of 'Peter Grimes' there's a problem.
I remember seeing it on stage at the Royal Opera House, roughly at the time when this recording was made. It was superb. Everyone said so. Jon Vickers was the definitive Grimes, eclipsing Peter Pears and all imitators.
Seeing the opera now on dvd has made me slightly alter my opinion. For me, this is no longer the greatest production in the world - and frankly I got fed up with Jon Vickers striding around in the way that only opera singers can move on stage. I lost interest in him and his character's plight. I was more interested in his lively wig and very white teeth. I felt I should be weeping, but couldn't. It is all strangely detached and unaffecting.
It certainly isn't for want of effort. Colin Davis' energetic conducting is as good and theatre-conscious as always - and there are some splendid performances from the supporting roles, but ...
Some magical ingredient is missing.
Of course, there are delights: Heather Harper is magnificent as the widow, Ellen Orford: a lovely voice, perfect for the composer, and a powerful stage presence. The unaccompanied duet between her and Grimes in the prologue is beautiful listening, as is Ellen's justly famous 'Embroidery Aria'. There is also a delicious vocal ensemble for women's voices - pure 'Rosenkavalier' - and the chorus is a model of well-disciplined singing.
'Grimes' is always worth seeing, but I think there are better versions than this one for your dvd player.
If my memory serves me correctly, the production featuring Philip Langridge, set in a Borough that Stanley Spencer might have painted, is infinitely superior, giving the opera the supercharged intensity and sense of menace which it needs - and which is unfortunately lacking here.