Peter Grimes DKT Old Stage – synopsis
Composer and librettist
Music: Benjamin Britten|Lyrics:Montagu Slater after a poem by Crabbe.
First performance at Sadler´s Wells i London den 7 juni 1945. Seen the performance: 4.3.2004 Royal Danish Opera in Copenhagen
PROLOGUE: A coroner’s inquest.
Lawyer Swallow is conducting the inquest into the death of Grimes’s apprentice. A verdict of accidental circumstances” is returned and Grimes is advised not to get another apprentice. The court is cleared and Ellen Orford, the widowed school-mistress who sympathises with Grimes remains behind to comfort him.
ACT ONE: Early morning at the harbour.
The fisherfolk go about their daily business. The general activity of the village is interrupted by a cry. It is Grimes asking for help to haul in his boat. “Do it yourself’, shouts Boles,and the fishermen refuse to help. Balstrode and Keene, however, lend a hand.
Keene tells Grimes that he has found a new apprentice for him. When he asks Hobson to fetch him, Hobson replies “Cart’s full sir”,Ellen then appears and offers to accompany Hobson, Hobson reluctantly agrees to find room for her and the boy on the cart while Keene tells Mrs Sedley that Hobson will bring back some laudanum for her heart and suggests that she meets him later that evening. A storm is approaching. The stage empties and Grimes and Balstrode are left alone. The latter tries to persuade Grimes to leave The Borough and seek his fortune elsewhere. Grimes refuses saying that he has his roots in The Borough and wants to stay there and make enough money to marry Ellen.
The same evening. The storm rages outside and the pub fills with villagers.An unexpected visitor is Mrs Sedley, who has come to keep her assignation with Keene.The two nieces of “Auntie” ( the owner of the pub) come down from upstairs shouting hysterically that their winows have been blown in. Boles, who is now drunk, makes a pass at one of the nieces. Suddenly Grimes enters to wait for his new apprentice. Boles tries to strike him, but Balstrode manages to ease the atmosphere by starting to sing a round. At the climax of the song the door opens and Ellen, Hobson and the new apprentice enter.They are soaked to the skin but Grimes wants to take the boy off at once.
ACT TWO: Sunday morning at the harbour.
While the villagers go to Sunday morning service, Ellen and the apprentice decide to sit by the sea. Ellen tries to cheer up the boy, but notices a tear on his coat and a bruise on his neck and realizes that Grimes, in spite of her warnings, has been too rough on him. Grimes now arrives in search of the boy and Ellen reminds him that it is Sunday. But Peter wants to work.He strikes her and drives the boy off ahead of him.
The scene is witnessed by Auntie, Keene and Boles. The congregation come out of hurch and public sentiment is quickly inflamed. Swallow asks Hobson to lead the men to Grimes’s hut. Ellen, Auntie and the two nieces stay behind.
Grimes’s hut. Peter Grimes is getting ready to go fishing. He blames the boy for having talked with Ellen, and at the sound of the men approaching, he opens a trapdoor in the floor leading to the boat. He starts to lower down the boy but when theres a knock on the door the boy falls. Quickly Grimes disappears through the trapdoor and when Swallow, the Rector, Keene and Balstrode enter, the hut is empty. Balstrode stays behind and discovers that somethings wrong. He hastily descends the way Grimes and the boy have gone.
ACT THREE: Three days later at the harbour.
It is night and people are dancing in the moonlight. There is a steady flow of people between the dance and the pub. Mrs Sedley tries to convince Keene that Grimes has murdered his new apprentice, for neither Grimes nor the boy has been seen for two whole days.Later she overhears a conversation between Ellen and Balstrode. Ellen has found the boy’s jersey, the jersey she knitted, and they both realize that the boy must be dead. They decide to look for Peter to help him. Mrs. Sedley now has all the information she needs. She calls for Swalow and tells him what she has overheard and seen. An atmosphere of hysteria is quickly aroused and everybody is called to arms to go looking for Peter.
Out of a dense fog Peter enters, worn out and delirious. Ellen and Balstrode approach him carefully, but Peter does not react.Balstrode quietly but firmly tells him to go out in his boat and sink it. Peter leaves and Balstrode follows to help him push the boat out. Dawn begins to break and The Borough slowly comes to life. Swallow reports a boat sinking far out at sea, but no one cares about it and another day’s work begins.