[129] Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes

25 Sep

It is not the fault of Tom Moon or Benjamin Britten than when I saw that I was to listen to an English Opera, my expectations were set way out of tune with reality.

britten-benjamin-129-l

I grew up listening to English Light Operetta courtesy of my Grandpa’s passion for all things Gilbert and Sullivan.  My first visits to the theater were for amateur dramatics, touring and D’Oyly Carte productions of The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and eventually the entire canon.

(I always took perverse pleasure in the fact that our local AmDram troop was called the Southend Operatic and Dramatic Society – acronym, SODS . . .)

Some of the earliest songs I sang, many of the earliest lyrics I memorized were these clever and catchy period pieces – unmistakable English (even when ostensibly set in Japan!) and as entertaining as they are musically well-crafted.  So I was excited to further explore “English Opera.”

I was very quickly disappointed.

The melodies and flat and dense, likely very appropriate to the dour subject matter but far from enjoyable.  And the plummy, hammy performances which so enhance the absurdity of a G&S show is grating when the subject matter is played straight.

I tried and tried, but wanted to stop listening halfway through every single time I hit “play”.

Would this engage me in a theater?  There appears to be enough of a plot here to hold interest, and I’ve never been put off by dark stories and the absence of a happy ending.  But as a purely audial experience I was left unengaged and frustrated.

Again, the fault here is as likely mine as the composer’s, the performers’, or Tom Moon’s.  I was just expecting something else, hoping for something to build upon a genre with which I have fond and intimate familiarity.  Instead I am left longing for the oxymoron of sophisticated slapstick, for patter songs and pretty tunes.

I’m off to listen to Trial By Jury . . .

Next Week – Big Bill Broonzy – The Young Big Bill Broonzy, 1928-1935

Owned before blogging? No. (11 of 129 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (19 of 129 = 15%)
Recommend? No. (105 of 129 = 81%)

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One Response to “[129] Benjamin Britten – Peter Grimes”

  1. kindadukish October 20, 2015 at 8:56 AM #

    Britten is probably one of the UKs most over rated composers of the last 100 or so years. I too have struggled with his music and in particular find his operas bland and tuneless. The only piece I would recommend is his Sinfonia da Requiem (not the War Requiem) which I consider a wonderful composition and which I have seen performed live several times.

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