Sat October 12, 2013
DMMO's "Extraordinary" 'Grimes' on RIGHT NOW
Benjamin Britten came to the USA in 1939, but sailed home to England in 1942. What had made his homesickness too powerful to ignore was reading the poetry of George Crabbe, which was set in Britten's home county of Suffolk. Crabbe also touched Britten's moral and artistic imagination, and Britten wrote his first great opera on one of Crabbe's characters, Peter Grimes, a fisherman who causes the death of an apprentice. Britten made Grimes more psychologically and morally complex than he had been in the original, and later said that the opera dealt with "a subject very close to my heart - the struggle of the individual against the masses." The opera-going masses, in any case, received Peter Grimes enthusiastically when it premiered in London in 1945. So did the critics, and while Grimes has gone in and out of favor with them in the intervening decades, today some regard it as the most significant opera of the 20th century.
2013 was the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth, and in its honor, the Des Moines Metro Opera performed Grimes. Critic Mark Thomas Ketterson called Roger Honeywell's singing of the title role "extraordinary" and "career defining" and said the production "would be a front-runner on any stage, anywhere." You can hear it, produced for broadcast and hosted by Jacqueline Halbloom, as part of IPR's "Arias in April" series, Saturday at 7 PM and Sunday at 2 PM.