Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My First Peter Grimes

(Wikipedia page of the opera here if you are unfamiliar with this opera but want to know it better.)

What's cockney English for 'OMG seriously creeped out'!?! Who are the people who once criticised Benjamin Britten for being 'too melodic'? And where harmonies go are parallel seconds now the new parallel thirds?

Suffice to say, the music takes some getting used to; it really calls for quite a bit of patience for the audience's ears to adjust. But then the story starts to get really compelling, and you don't really know whether to sympathise with the increasingly deranged protagonist or side with the gossiping villagers for attempting to call him out.

Music wise, the composer is a genius at creating tension through pacing, unsettling rhythms and unrelentingly eerie harmonies. He is wonderful at composing for large forms, as can be heard from the many scenes where over a dozen vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra build up what started as a simple accompanied dialogue to a full fortissimo passage, yet so many different instrumental and vocal colours, melodies and textures can be heard clearly even at its loudest. What an embarrassment of riches!

And then there's Grime's mad scene, or rather, mad scenes! I shall not go into detail in case you want to check it out yourself, but in the right performer's hands (and Peter Langridge is just unbelievably compelling in the part), is musical declamation at its best. This opera is certainly not for casual popcorn viewing, but is worth the time and emotional investment if you are ever so keen to go along for the ride.

Now let's get back to the always reliable Joan Rivers, because I really need a laugh!

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