Britten: Peter Grimes


Britten’s powerful and masterful evocation of the North Sea in all its moods has to audiences all over the world become inextricably linked with the Aldeburgh that was home to George Crabbe (author of the ‘The Borough’ from which the story originates) in the eighteenth century and Britten in the twentieth.

Steuart Bedford leads a vast and accomplished ensemble on this new live recording, created shortly before the group’s unique staging of the work on the beach at Aldeburgh as part of the town’s world-renowned festival.

(Physical product booklet includes the full libretto to the opera, however this not available in the linked booklet below for copyright reasons.)



What people are saying

"… The mix here is imperceptible and the sound unobtrusive; engineer Mike Hatch deserves a credit twice the size and conductor Steuart Bedford pulls off an extraordinary feat of coherence and endurance. But it’s Oke who makes the case for Peter Grimes and steals the show. There used to be two great Grimes on record: Peter Pears and Jon Vickers. Now there are three." Sinfini Music, Norman Lebrecht, August 2013   

Alan Oke     Peter Grimes
Giselle Allen     Ellen Orford
David Kempster     Captain Balstrode
Gaynor Keeble     Auntie
Alexandra Hutton     First Niece
Charmian Bedford     Second Niece
Robert Murray     Bob Boles
Henry Waddington     Swallow
Catherine Wyn-Rogers     Mrs Sedley
Christopher Gillett     Rev. Horace Adams
Charles Rice     Ned Keene
Stephen Richardson     Hobson

Chorus of Opera North
Chorus of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama
Britten–Pears Orchestra
Steuart Bedford conductor

Release date:29th Jul 2013
Order code:SIGCD348
Barcode: 635212034828

Classic FM – Album of the Week October 2013

Classic FM, David Mellor

August 2013

Aldeburgh Festival’s epic project – staging Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Peter Grimes’ on the beach – was a triumphant event for those who were lucky enough to see it live. Norman Lebrecht finds the live recording – captured in concert performances at Snape Maltings – is just as mesmerising.

Tosca has been staged on the ramparts of Rome and Turandot on the Great Wall of China, but puttingPeter Grimes on Aldeburgh beach in June risked the inclemency of an early English summer, which proved frigid. Rehearsals and first performances of this open-air production were survived with heavy blankets and hip-flasks. Even after the gales ceased, greatcoats remained essential. There was never a risk of stage nudity in this production. 

Adult content, on the other hand, is innate. Raising sympathy for a fisherman who caused the death of boys and may have abused them is as tough a call today as it was at the Sadlers Wells premiere in June 1945. Britten’s self-image as an outsider in a hostile world – gay, pacifist, an artist – is nowhere more forcibly experienced. How to play the loner Grimes is one of the supreme challenges in modern opera. 

Alan Oke nails it from his first response to the examining coroner. Neither confrontational nor contrite, he stands tall in the dock, his voice pure and sure. A fishing man who lives by his catch, he needs to find another boy to take to sea.  Scene by scene, we are drawn to his plight. Giselle Allen is a touching schoolma’am, David Kempster a convincing Captain Balstrode, the chorus a constant threat. 

At the open-air beach performances, the pre-recorded Britten-Pears Orchestra was beamed in from indoors. The mix here is imperceptible and the sound unobtrusive; engineer Mike Hatch deserves a credit twice the size and conductor Steuart Bedford pulls off an extraordinary feat of coherence and endurance. But it’s Oke who makes the case for Peter Grimes and steals the show. There used to be two great Grimes on record: Peter Pears and Jon Vickers. Now there are three.


Sinfini Music, Norman Lebrecht

This is a terrific presentation of one of the greatest British operas. The recording has captured the spirit of the drama brilliantly. I saw the performance sat on the shingle at the beach and loved every minute of it. One thing I miss on the recording is the ever present sound of the sea that we had on the beach – it added something and whilst you can’t having it running through the whole thing – some a touch of it might have been nice. In case it’s not clear, this recording was not done on the beach but at Snape Maltings. There will be a DVD at some point in which you should get a better sense of the outdoor setting. (Including the sound of feet moving off stage on the shingle – also an evocative sound.)

Alan Oke as Grimes was the perfect singer for the role and a credible successor to Pears. He exuded the grim greyness of the North Sea in the way that an Italian tenor could never muster (imagine a Pavarotti trying this out!). And Giselle Allen as Ellen Orford was performed in a convincing and sensitive manner. It’s hard to recommend this highly enough. Buy it – enjoy it and see the DVD.  

iTunes Review, John Mercer

  1. Prologue: Peter Grimes (Hobson, Swallow, Peter) – Benjamin Britten – 1.32
  2. Prologue: You sailed your boat round the coast (Swallow, Peter, Mrs. Sedley, Hobson, Ellen, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 3.20
  3. Prologue: Peter Grimes, I here advise you (Swallow, Hobson, Peter, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 2.10
  4. Prologue: The truth – the pity – and the truth (Peter, Ellen) – Benjamin Brittend – 1.55
  5. Prologue: Interlude I ‘Dawn’ – Benjamin Britten – 2.47
  6. Act I Scene I: Oh, hang at open doors (Auntie, Boles, Balstrode, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 4.21
  7. Act I Scene I: Good morning, good morning! (Rector, Nieces, Mrs. Sedley, Ned, Swallow, Auntie, Boles, Balstrode, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 1.05
  8. Act I Scene I: Hi! Give us a hand (Peter, Boles, Balstrode, Ned, Auntie, Hobson) – Benjamin Britten – 3.22
  9. Act I Scene I: I’ll have to go from pub to pub (Hobson, Ellen, Ned, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 1.54
  10. Act I Scene I: Let her among you without fault (Ellen, Hobson, Mrs. Sedley, Ned) – Benjamin Britten – 3.00
  11. Act I Scene I: Look! The storm cone! (Balstrode, Ned, Boles, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 2.35
  12. Act I Scene I: And do you prefer the storm (Balstrode, Peter) – Benjamin Britten – 3.24
  13. Act I Scene I: They listen to money (Peter, Balstrode) – Benjamin Britten – 1.35
  14. Act I Scene I: What harbour shelters peace (Peter) – Benjamin Britten – 1.02
  15. Act I: Interlude II – Benjamin Britten – 4.05
  16. Act I Scene II: Past time to close (Auntie, Mrs. Sedley, Balstrode, Boles, Nieces) – Benjamin Britten – 2.22
  17. Act I Scene II: Loud man (Auntie, Nieces, Mrs. Sedley) – Benjamin Britten – 1.00
  18. Act I Scene II: There’s been a landslide up the coast (Fisherman, Boles, Balstrode, Auntie) – Benjamin Britten – 0.59
  19. Act I Scene II: No, I mean love (Boles, Balstrode, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 0.32
  20. Act I Scene II: Pub conversation should depend (Balstrode, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 1.19
  21. Act I Scene II: Have you heard the cliff is down (Ned, Auntie, Mrs. Sedley, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 1.34
  22. Act I Scene II: Now the Great Bear and Pleiades (Peter, Nieces, Boles, Balstrode, Auntie, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 3.34
  23. Act I Scene II: For peace sake (Balstrode, Peter) – Benjamin Brittend – 2.29
  24. Act I Scene II: The bridge is down (Hobson, Ned, Ellen, Boles, Auntie, Nieces, Peter) – Benjamin Britten – 1.27
  25. Act II: Interlude III ‘Sunday Morning’ – Benjamin Britten – 2.26
  26. Act II Scene I: Glitter of waves (Ellen) – Benjamin Britten – 1.29
  27. Act II Scene I: Now that the daylight fills the sky (Ellen, Rector, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 3.39
  28. Act II Scene I: Child you’re not too young (Ellen, Rector, Peter, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 3.11
  29. Act II Scene I: This unrelenting work (Ellen, Peter, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 4.18
  30. Act II Scene I: Fool to let it come to this (Auntie, Ned, Boles, Mrs. Sedley, Balstrode, Swallow, Nieces, Rector, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 3.13
  31. Act II Scene I: People … No! I will speak! (Boles, Balstrode, Rector, Auntie, Ellen, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 2.09
  32. Act II Scene I: We planned that their lives (Ellen, Rector, Mrs. Sedley, Boles, Ned, Nieces, Auntie, Balstrode, Hobson, Swallow, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 2.15
  33. Act II Scene I: Shall we go and see Grimes in his hut? (Rector, Swallow, Balstrode, Mrs. Sedley, Boles, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 0.47
  34. Act II Scene I: Now gossip is put on trial (Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 2.02
  35. Act II Scene I: From the gutter (Nieces, Auntie, Ellen) – Benjamin Britten – 4.01
  36. Act II: Interlude IV ‘Passacaglia’ – Benjamin Britten – 5.29
  37. Act II Scene II: Go there (Peter) – Benjamin Britten – 1.54
  38. Act II Scene II: They listen to money (Peter)q – Benjamin Britten – 5.02
  39. Act II Scene II: Now! Now! (Peter, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 2.09
  40. Act II Scene II: Peter Grimes (Rector, Swallow, Ned) – Benjamin Britten – 2.50
  41. Act III: Interlude V ‘Moonlight’ – Benjamin Britten – 3.39
  42. Act III Scene I: Assign your prettiness to me (Swallow, Nieces, Ned) – Benjamin Britten – 3.12
  43. Act III Scene I: Mr. Keene (Mrs. Sedley, Ned) – Benjamin Britten – 1.27
  44. Act III Scene I: Murder most foul it is (Mrs. Sedley, Ned) – Benjamin Britten – 1.24
  45. Act III Scene I: Come along, Doctor (Burgess, Burgesses, Rector, Mrs. Sedley, Ellen, Balstrode) – Benjamin Britten – 2.43
  46. Act III Scene I: Embroidery in childhood was (Ellen, Balstrode) – Benjamin Britten – 4.47
  47. Act III Scene I: Mr. Swallow (Mrs. Sedley, Auntie, Swallow, Hobson) – Benjamin Britten – 1.55
  48. Act III Scene I: Who holds himself apart (Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 3.27
  49. Act III: Interlude VI – Benjamin Britten – 2.08
  50. Act III Scene II: Grimes! (Voices, Peter) – Benjamin Britten – 5.09
  51. Act III Scene II: Peter, we’ve come to take you home (Ellen, Peter, Balstrode) – Benjamin Britten – 2.23
  52. Act III Scene II: To those who pass the Borough (Swallow, Fisherman, Auntie, Boles, Chorus) – Benjamin Britten – 5.13