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Britten;Benjamin Peter Grimes

Peter Pears , Heather Harper , Joan Cross , Benjamin Britten    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent ! July 1 2008
Format:DVD
A must-have for aficionados and newcomers to Britten's masterpiece. Singers-actors are brilliant and the music reaches deep inside your flesh. Ventris is one perfect Peter Grimes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the oppressive sea July 31 2008
By Dr. John W. Rippon - Published on Amazon.com
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.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful presentation July 18 2008
By S. Hansen - Published on Amazon.com
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
5.0 out of 5 stars a riveting performance of a modern masterpiece Aug. 13 2008
By Col William Russell - Published on Amazon.com
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.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ventris - A Great, Grim Grimes Nov. 9 2007
By G P Padillo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I raced home to watch my latest Amazon purchase, this "Peter Grimes" from Zurich and am still reeling from the experience.

There were elements of Robert Israel's stage design I wasn't immediately keen on, David Pountney has thought long and hard about how he wanted to present this great 20th Century opera, and the cast - from top-to-bottom - seem 100% convinced by his ideas resulting in an emotionally shattering experience. This is, of course, aided greatly by Welser-Most and the Zurich Opera House Orchestra's tremendous reading.

I've grown wary of stagings where nearly everyone is on the stage nearly all the time, and I'm afraid that element of this production put me on guard at curtain's rise. The stage is filled with chairs, used throughout the evening, many of them suspended in air with choristers representing the citizens of the Burrough, and all evening we watch them drink, weave, mend nets, work on model ships, etc. While some find this sort of thing adds an element of theatricality - everyone observing whats going on, the superiority and judgment of the villagers over the protagonist, how alone we can be despite the presence of many, etc., it bugs me just a little bit, particularly in intimate moments where their presence feels intrusive and unnecessary, and did so here as well. It felt a little "bang you over the head" obvious.

Now that the negative is out of the way, every other aspect of this production is quite magnificent, and I actually liked the urreal/abstract multi-leveled set with its ladders, poles, columns, wall of marine paraphenalia, etc, which gave the entire thing a sense of "nightmare of the soul." In Peter's mad scene, the violent waves of the ocean projected at the rear of the stage, is a nice touch as Peter's "boat" (a multiuse platform that rises and falls according to staging needs) rocks as he calls "steady." There are many such touches throughout.

Ventris may just have found a special niche that could make him the Grimes of choice these days. With a burly physical presence not unlike Vickers, his voice - at least here - has that English lyricism recalling Pears. This physical/vocal juxtaposition makes for a powerful, multi-faceted production, with Peter's longing for peace and tenderness at enormous odds with his brutality and quick temper. I always route for Peter, and rarely more so than with Mr. Ventris's performance. The denizens of the Burrough are almost an entirely unsavory lot and Peter's madness and intollerance seem to be a perfectly logical result of having lived among these horrible, horrible people. My God, anyone would snap.

That mob mentality, of course, extends to excluding Ellen, Balstrode and young John, from joining in their reindeer games.

Emily Magee brings a gentle intensity to Ellen making clear - unlike other productions - they share something strong here and that she loves this man. When she begins to doubt the plans she and Peter have laid out for themselves, it is a moment that absolutely shatters - her, Peter, and the audience.

The quartet with Ellen, Auntie and the Nieces is particularly touching here, and Mrs. Sedley's "Murder" song is delivered with a comic malice that is genuinely creepy.

One of the most devastating and powerful sequences in all of opera is the great chorus "Him who despises us we'll destroy" all the way through the end of the opera. There is no denying the thrill of the villagers mobbing and threatening the unseen Grimes, but when that "jolly" demented wordless chorus takes over, I lose it every time, my entire body shuddering and tense until the final blackout. And so it was here. Welser-Most's leading of the Zurich forces is thrilling, visceral stuff, and I enjoyed the occasional overhead shots of the orchestra pouring everything and wailing away on Britten's greatest score.

The supporting cast, Alfred Muff a stalwart Balstrode, Cornelia Kallisch a hateful, brilliant Mrs. Sedley, and Liliana Nikiteanu playing Auntie up as a red hot hottie, as well as the rest of the cast in roles small and large, all are at fever pitch level and contribute enormously to the success of this wrenching production.

The audience begins cheering as soon as the lights go out, and cheers cast, maestro and orchestra (which really is a "cast" member in this opera), but I just motionless on the couch for a few minutes, wrecked.

Highly Recommended.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars close to definitive July 31 2008
By A. Levina - Published on Amazon.com
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.
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