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A Spectacular Portrayal

Opera North's 'Peter Grimes',


Described as England's national opera company in the North, it is an enterprise that excels in certainly two important fundamental respects. It has an orchestra that is among the most exciting and polished in the country, and a chorus that is able to make the most phlegmatic of listeners leap from their seats. Add to this a superb cast under the direction of Phyllida Lloyd for her third Benjamin Britten piece for Opera North (Grimes was last seen here seventeen years ago) and, of course, this operatic masterpiece -- the resulting three-hour evening becomes a memorable event [seen Thursday 26 October 2006 at Leeds Grand Theatre].

This time it is Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts who takes on, and successfully projects a spectacular portrayal of the detached and lonely fisherman Grimes. In a powerful role like this, only sixty years old and with fine yet highly contrasted tenors like Peter Pears and Jon Vickers documented as part of its essential history, it would not be unexpected to see a kind of impersonation from a singer new to the part. But Lloyd-Roberts is no imitator. He has a command of the character that comes over as his own in many small details, and in the end a resignation that accepts (not quite as George Crabbe's original mid-18th century poem) the lashing of the town's hypercritical Christian moralizing.

Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Peter Grimes. Photo © 2006 Bill Cooper
Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts as Peter Grimes. Photo © 2006 Bill Cooper

Grimes has the support of only two of the inhabitants of this insular fishing village, both demanding roles in the drama. The part of the disappointed and kindly schoolmistress Ellen Orford, who sees Grimes as her future and his ill-fated boy apprentices as her charges, is given appealing strength by soprano Giselle Allen, and the retired sea captain Balstrode, who understands, is vigorously sung by baritone Christopher Purves.

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Copyright © 1 November 2006 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


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