Britten and Grimes

Philip Brett

in Music and Sexuality in Britten

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780520246096
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939127 | DOI:
Britten and Grimes

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Leaving England for America at the commencement of the war, Benjamin Britten eventually returned to his homeland, realizing the essence of an artists' being in the vicinity of his roots. This chapter appraises the proclaimed proximate connection between Britten's decision to retract to England and the opera, Peter Grimes. It was in Southern California in summer 1941 that Britten picked up an issue of The Listener to which E. M. Forster had contributed an chapter on the Suffolk poet, George Crabbe. This seems to have been the turning point in Britten's assumption not only about nationality but also locality. Crabbe's Peter Grimes is one of the poor of the Borough, and though the poet grew up among the poor, he did not like them. His portrait of the man whose cruelty leads to the death of three boy apprentices from the workhouse and whose guilty conscience drives him to madness and death is alleviated by few redeeming features; a bold and unusual choice for the central figure of a musical drama in the tradition of grand opera.

Keywords: grand opera; Peter Grimes; Benjamin Britten; Suffolk poet; musical drama

Chapter.  8449 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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