Teatro Real premieres a new production of “Peter Grimes” the most important European co-production since the start of the pandemic

Between April 19 and May 10, Teatro Real of Madrid will offer 9 performances of a new production by Peter Grimes, which will subsequently be presented at the co-producing theatres: Royal Opera House in London, Opéra national de Paris and Teatro dell’Opera di Rome.

To adapt to current health security regulations, the performances will begin at 7:00 p.m. (on Sundays, at 6:00 p.m.), they will have a maximum capacity of 66% (compared to the 75% authorized by the Community of Madrid) and there will be a empty seat interposed between each group of theatre-goers.


Between April 19 and May 10, Teatro Real will offer 9 performances of Peter Grimes, by Benjamin Britten, a new production of Teatro Real in co-production with the Royal Opera House in London, Opéra national de Paris and Teatro dell ‘ Opera di Roma.


In this masterful opera, the inhabitants of a small coastal town, whose hard life passes under the relentless influence of the sea, confront, sentence, slander and humiliate a sullen and violent fisherman who clumsily yearns to integrate into that society that despises him. The question that beats throughout the drama – is Peter Grimes the murderer of a child? – triggers many others, of great depth, to which Britten does not answer, although his music always treats beings with a moving compassion, marginalized and lonely.


When in 1941, during World War II, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) and his inseparable partner, the tenor Peter Pears, were in California, they discovered the work of the English poet George Crabbe (1754-1832) who, like Britten, had been born in a town on the Suffolk coast, the scene of all his stories. Such was the identification and empathy of Britten with that world so close and longed for, that he decides to return to England driven by a revealing feeling of belonging and roots that lead him to take up residence, forever, in those lands on the shores of the North Sea. There also lives the unfortunate Peter Grimes, a character from Crabbe’s poem The Borough, which Britten decides to transform into an opera, sketched, with the help of Pears, during the boat trip that the two made back to their homeland.


In England, where homosexuality was penalized, a difficult life awaited them in which they would have to hide their love from the well-thought-out society. This fact underlies the opera and almost all of Britten’s operatic production, starring unfathomable, dark beings, who are generally opposed by innocent victims.


To show in all its rawness the drama of Peter Grimes, stigmatized in a society that creates its own monsters, Deborah Warner, with the complicity of set designer Michael Levine, has set the drama in a very poor town on the Suffolk coast. There remains the same horizon line, the fury of the sea and the pebble beach that inspired Crabbe’s poetry and Britten’s opera. But the misery and helplessness of its people today are fundamental in the staging, in which the meticulous work of Warner stands out, which always explores the psychological depth of the characters.


For this, it has a cast in which the debut, in their respective roles, of the tenor Allan Clayton (Peter Grimes) and the soprano Maria Bengtsson (Ellen Orford), and the return to Teatro Real of the baritone Christopher Purves (Captain Balstrode) stand out, starring in the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Perfect American in 2013 and George Benjamin’s Written on Skin in 2016.


Two interpreters who acted in Billy Budd in 2017 also return to the Real: Jacques Imbrailo, the protagonist of the opera in 2017 and now playing the role of Ned Keene, and Clive Bayley as Swallow. They are accompanied by Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Auntie), John Graham Hall (Bob Boles), Rosie Aldridge (Mrs. Sedley), James Gilchrist (Rev. Horace Adams), Barnaby Rea (Hobson), Rocío Pérez (first niece) and Natalia Labourdette (second niece).


The Titular Choir of the Teatro Real, prepared, as always, by its director Andrés Máspero, has an important role in this opera, both musical and dramaturgical. He will perform with the Titular Orchestra of Teatro Real, under the direction of its musical director Ivor Bolton.


Benjamin Britten has occupied a privileged place in Teatro Real’s programming since its reopening. In 1997, two months after the reopening, Peter Grimes achieved great success, in a production directed by Willy Decker from the La Monnaie Theater in Brussels, with its titular choir and orchestra conducted by Antonio Pappano. They have been followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2005/2006), The Rape of Lucretia (2007/2008), Another Turn of the Screw (2010/2011), Death in Venice (2014/2015), Billy Budd (2016 / 2017), Gloriana (2017/2018) and the children’s works The Little Chimney Sweep (2004/2005, 2005/2006 and 2007/2008) and The Flood of Noé (2007/2008).


All these works attest to the immense musical and dramaturgical talent of Benjamin Britten as an operatic composer, who has expressed through his characters the deepest and most unspeakable dramas, dreams, traumas, passions and concerns of the individual, with a deep compassion for miseries. of the human condition.