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Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Pears, Heather Harper, Bryan Drake, Elizabeth Bainbridge, Owen Brannigan
  • Directors: Joan Cross, Benjamin Britten
  • Format: AC-3, Classical, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Universal Music Canada
  • Release Date: Sept. 9 2008
  • Run Time: 150 minutes
  • ASIN: B0012L0TFM
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #89,898 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
the oppressive sea July 31 2008
By Dr. John W. Rippon - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
How very lucky we are to have the release of the TV movie version dated 1969 of Britten's Peter Grimes. All the more so because we have the composer Benjamin Britten conducting and his partner Peter Pears who created the title role of Peter in what is certainly one of the greatest operas of the twentieth century. Pears projection of the character is superb; a troubled, confused yet resolute individual trying to fit in the village. The excellent Heather Harper as Ellen tries to reach Peter but can't. Ann Robson is commendable as the opium-dazed Mrs. Sedley the village gossip who with the drunk, failed Methodist minister Bob Boles turns the village against Grimes. All the singer/actors are very well cast. Because of the constraints of time and space, the opera had to be filmed in very small quarters on an adaptable, rotational ramp set cleverly conceived by David Myerscough-Jones. So well done that it belies the crampted space and one doesn't miss the opera house. The marvelous sea interludes were played against a series of absract images projected on gauze. The whole effect is of a misty, oppressive, constantly changing sea and the fragility of the lives that try to tame it. This is a beautiful work, beautifully done.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A powerful presentation July 18 2008
By S. Hansen - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I just got the DVD and was blown away by it. I saw this performance on TV (black & while, rabbit ears, lots of snow) back around 1970 and had fond memories of it. I'm not sure how much restoration the recording required but the video is very good and the mono audio is fine. Peter Pears, of course, is incomparable and the rest of the cast is superb as are the staging and overall performance.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
a riveting performance of a modern masterpiece Aug. 13 2008
By Col William Russell (ret) - Published on
Format: DVD
This is the only opera written after Puccini's TURANDOT that I consider to be an opera, let alone a masterpiece. If you enjoy GRIMES, my recommendation is to get this superb telecast plus the one with Vickers. Two very different interpretations that cannot be equalled today in any opera house. Britten wrote GRIMES for Pears so we have that link here as well as Britten's marvelous conducting. Vickers' Grimes is more tragic while Pears is pathetic but both deserve to be seen as two sides of one coin. Picture quality, sound, and supporting cast are top-rate.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
close to definitive July 31 2008
By A. Levina - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
In my opinion, this film is as close to the definitive staging of Britten's masterpiece as one can hope to get. If only Peter Pears was 25 years younger! When the opera was premiered in 1945, he was 35, and Joan Cross, who played Ellen Orford, was 45. I think that this is the ideal age for Grimes and Ellen. For a casual viewer, it would be hard to make sense from the story of the opera, when the title character is obviously older than anyone else in the village (as in this film). Nevertheless, we have to be very grateful for the opportunity to see Pears in the role of Grimes. As to the question of whether he was too urbane and sophisticated for this character... Well, Jon Vickers has made Grimes more conventionally operatic and "heroic", but Pears knew better what it is all about (being present at the conception of the opera). I particularly liked his very fine and revealing interpretation of the Passacaglia.

The advantages of this production are particularly clear compared with some recent stagings of the opera (e.g., one at the Met in 2007, which I found terrible). It also seems to me that the attempts to transfer the action to the 20th century (e.g., Opera North) are misplaced. What about buying apprentices from a workhouse? In fact, the universal meanings of this opera become more, rather than less, clear when it is put into its proper historical and geographical context.

There are some inevitable technical slips related to a life performance (e.g., the Nieces singing "together we are safe" are not in fact together). For a perfect musical rendering, one should go Britten's Decca recording of 1958. The current film provides a perfect complement to this recording and an incomparable historical document.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Britten's Masterpiece! Jan. 18 2011
By Reviewer - Published on
Format: DVD
That's what it says right on the box, and for a change I enthusiastically agree. Everything works together in this opera - the dramaturgy and the music - to fulfill the fundamental objective of the genre, a total synthesis of words, music, and theatrics. Likewise, everything works in this production, a film made for BBC broadcast in 1969, in color, staged and recorded in a small studio, conducted by Britten himself and starring Britten's long-time collaborator Peter Pears. I have two other DVDs of this extraordinary opera, both of them quite good, but this production is iconic, a supernova of affective art. Yes, "modern" opera is valid!

Peter Pears created the role of 'Peter Grimes' in the premiere of the opera on stage. Grimes is a rough, hard-bitten, antipathetic fisherman, ostracized by his community for his cruelty and abuse of his boy apprentice. In fact, he is suspected of having murdered the boy by mistreatment. The drama begins with a coroner's inquest, which rules that the boy's death was accidental. Grimes is defended, and loved, by the schoolmistress Ellen Orford, who helps him acquire another boy from the workhouse-orphanage. The role of Orford is sung magnificently here by Heather Harper; her presence and voice, and the lyrical music written for that presence, is as warm as sunshine bursting through a drenching rain.

The scenes of the opera are all in the village: on the wharf, in the street, inside the local brothel, and in Grimes's hut. These are clearly 'sets' such as might be used in an opera house production, giving us the illusion of the living stage. The BBC deserves all reverence and adulation for pioneering the genre of opera films and operas on TV. Hurray for public broadcasting! Hurray for government patronage of the arts!

I've recently watched all four of the filmed BBC productions of Britten's operas -- Owen Wingrave, The Beggar's Opera, Billy Budd, and Peter Grimes -- and I've been dissatisfied with Owen and Billy, especially with the latter. Basically, I don't find the vocal lines in either of those operas convincing as music. I have other objections to Britten's treatment of the Billy Budd story, which I've expressed in a separate review. What astounds me is that Grimes and Budd incorporate so many of the same themes, so much of the same musical idiom and theatrical ambience, yet Grimes is a richer and more powerful opera in every way. Both works are 'symphonic' operas, in which the orchestra narrates the emotional drama as much as, or more than, the singers. There are long orchestral interludes between the swiftly-changing scenes of Peter Grimes, and they are in effect profound meditations on the action. Britten's setting of words in Billy Budd seems to me to be awkwardly prosaic, ponderous, arbitrarily bludgeoned on the surface of the orchestral music. That's not at all the case in Peter Grimes; the vocal lines nestle in the symphonic score as naturally as naked bodies in a warm bed. The libretto consists chiefly of rhymed couplets - trimeters and tetrameters - and yet the language never seems jingly or goofy, as it does in Billy Budd. This is language that wants to be sung.

There's an immense tempestuous grandeur to this opera, as grand as the earth-scouring man-devouring sea that looms behind the scenes and the story. Peter Grimes is more than Britten's masterpiece; it's one of the masterpieces of all 20th C opera.