Cambridge Opera Handbooks
|Scope||232 pages; 13.8 × 21.6 cm|
|Publisher/Producer||Cambridge University Press|
Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes is one of the few operas of the last half-century to have gained a secure place in the repertory. Its appearance in 1945 shortly after the end of the war in Europe was a milestone in operatic history as well as in British music. But the origins of the work lie in the United States, where Britten and his friend Peter Pears (the first Grimes) spent the years 1939–42. In 1941 they read an evocative essay by the novelist E. M. Forster on the Suffolk poet George Crabbe (1754–1832); this precipitated Britten's decision to return to his native country, and sent them both to Crabbe's poem, The Borough, which gave them the idea for the plot they drafted together. This book opens with Forster's original essay and his later one on Crabbe and Peter Grimes.
From there the reader can trace the history of the opera: in Donald Mitchell's annotated interview with the wife of the librettist, Montagu Slater; in Philip Brett's detailed study of the fascinating documents preserved in the Britten–Pears Library at Aldeburgh; and in his history of the work's stage presentation and critical reception. Hans Keller's remarkable synopsis, first printed in 1952, is complemented by a fine new analytical study by David Matthews of Act II scene 1, the crux of the opera.