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Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes – opera in concert with multimedia projections, for the first time at the George Enescu International Festival

Peter Grimes, on 15 September at the Palace Hall, at 19.30

 

Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, one of the major operas of the contemporary period, will be performed in Bucharest for the first time, on 15 September, in concert version. The Romanian National Radio Orchestra will perform under the baton of British conductor Paul Daniel, while the Radio Academic Choir will be conducted by Ciprian Țuțu.

The show is yet another premiere to watch on the stage of the Palace Hall, within the “George Enescu” International Festival, and it will blend with a visual story imagined by multimedia director Carmen Lidia Vidu as a graphic film.

“I have drawn the entire film of the opera frame by frame. There are at least 500 drawings transformed into 500 short films that I will present to the tempo of conductor Paul Daniel. Moreover, we have tried to draw the characters according to the cast that will be present in the Enescu Festival. Illustrator Gabi Skinder has made tremendous work, and Julien Javions is the one who transformed the drawings into a film”, says Carmen Lidia Vidu.

The cast includes international lyrical artists, the leading role being interpreted by tenor Ian Storey, one of the most appreciated voices of the international stage for his performance of Wagner’s operas, and appreciated for the remarkable nuances he brings to the very role of Peter Grimes.

At its debut, Peter Grimes, Benjamin Britten’s opera, was just as popular or even exceeded the box office grosses of Madama Butterfly and La Bohème, two beloved operas with which the new composition shared posters in June 1945 in London. For the history of British opera, Peter Grimes is a cornerstone, and charts lovers will find it in popular international charts like “Best 100 operas of all times”. However, for music lovers in Romania the occasion to listen to it in its entirety is a rare one and will be provided within the 2019 edition of George Enescu International Festival.

What inspired and urged Benjamin Britten to compose the opera was the story of fisherman Peter Grimes, although the final libretto strays from its source of inspiration. Music historians note that Britten discovered by chance, on an antique bookstore’s shelf, the poem The Borough by 17th century British poet George Crabbe, where he speaks of fisherman Grimes and his life in a small fishing town. The story reminded Britten of Suffolk, his native town, and he really wished to turn the poem into an opera. Thus, fisherman Grimes, a rough, merciless person, accused of killing his own apprentices, has become a reference name in the world of music.

As a libretto, the original story acquires more nuances. Fisherman Grimes is a more complex character, who reveals other facets of his personality in his relationship with Ellen Orford, the teacher in the village. At first, Grimes is officially absolved from the suspicion of having killed one of his apprentices, found drowned along the coast of the village. Although he is advised not to take another apprentice, Grimes refuses and chooses a new one. In a moment of tension, during an argument with his tough, morose employer, the apprentice accidentally falls off a cliff and dies. People react promptly and accuse the fisherman of murder once again. To escape the fury of the community, Peter Grimes accepts the suggestion of going off the coast and sinking with his own boat. Compared to the original, in the version proposed by librettist Montague Slater, Grimes’s guilt is not very certain, and the audience is invited to have their own opinion like in a true crime novel. Britten sees this opera as a symbol of an individual’s struggle against the preconceived ideas of the society: “A subject very close to my heart—the struggle of the individual against the masses. The more vicious the society, the more vicious the individual.”

I grew up by the Danube, among fishermen. A mix of Romanians and Serbians. I, a child, they, people of the water. The houses in Gornea village are terraced. We were sharing a wall with the village pub. I remember the publican’s big dogs, the two ‘loose’ girls across the street, the killing of a young man and many more things that I can’t tell, but that are part of my biography and of Peter Grimes”, says Carmen Lidia Vidu about the personal relationship she has established with the opera.

Britten’s composition is dense, massive, involves impressive choral sequences, intense roles, tense, dramatic moments, and sometimes, in counterpoint, humour and frivolous touches. The orchestra takes on entire passages, leading the audience through the subject.

The Festival audience has already had the chance to listen to some of these fragments in the London Symphony Orchestra’s concert at this edition of the festival. The British orchestra performed “Four Sea Interludes and Passacaglia” – a group of the six orchestral interludes in Peter Grimes, where the sea witnesses the leading character’s drama and mirrors his moods, while remaining impassive and constant beyond any individual stories.

 

FULL PROGRAM – 15 septembER, PALACE HALL, 19.30-22.15

ROMANIAN NATIONAL RADIO ORCHESTRA & RADIO ACADEMIC CHOIR

PAUL DANIEL conductor
CIPRIAN ŢUŢU conductor of the choir
CARMEN LIDIA VIDU multimedia director

Cast: IAN STOREY Peter Grimes (tenor), LISE DAVIDSEN Ellen Orford (soprano), CATHERINE WYN‑ROGERS Auntie (contralto), CHRISTOPHER PURVES Balstrode (baritone), DIANA MONTAGUE Mrs. Sedley (mezzosoprano), JOSHUA BLOOM Swallow (bass), HUW MONTAGUE RENDALL Ned Keene (baritone), MICHAEL COLVIN Bob Boles (tenor), BONAVENTURA BOTTONE Rev. Horace Adams (tenor), BARNABY REA Hobson (bass), SOLOMIA LUKYANETS Niece 1 (soprano), RHIAN LOIS Niece 2 (soprano).

 

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About “George Enescu” International Festival

Having reached its 24th edition, George Enescu International Festival will take place between 31 August and 22 September 2019. In the Bucharest concert halls we will see over 2,500 of the most valuable musicians of the world, coming from 50 countries, and 84 concerts and recitals will be presented. This year’s edition of the festival has a total number of 34 figures coming to Romania for the first time: 25 artists, including Marion Cotillard, Kirill Petrenko, Mitsuko Uchida, and nine world-class orchestras.

The 2019 edition of George Enescu International Festival awaits its audience in the Palace Hall, at the Romanian Athenaeum, the Radio Hall and the Small Palace Hall, to concerts and recitals grouped under six sections: “Great Orchestras of the World”, “By Midnight Concerts”, “Recitals and Chamber Music”, “21st Century Music”, “Mozart Week in Residence” and “International Composers’ Forum”. Concerts and events will also be organised in the Festival Square, along with conferences, record releases and book launches, and extraordinary shows.

For more details: https://www.festivalenescu.ro/

 

Translation provided by Biroul de Traduceri Champollion