Director's Notes

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Director's Notes

One of the remarkable things in Peter Grimes is the sense of place alive in it, and the way musically that place is seen and felt through the minds of the protagonist: we experience landscape, weather, light and atmosphere as psychological entities. Britten plays so courageously in almost visually creating the world that surrounds his characters. The music paints pictures not only of the sea and the land around The Borough, but also the spaces that separate people, and in those spaces we feel fear and mistrust, anger and love, hope and despair.

I saw my job in this production as allowing the world that Britten creates so vividly in the music to play freely in the audience’s imagination, and I was at pains to ensure the experience of watching and listening to Peter Grimes not be blurred by too literal a representation of this world in the actual images created on stage.

In a sense all of my productions in theatre have been about trying to share with an audience the experience of play that goes on in the rehearsal room before opening — to render that experience in a not entirely finished form, so that the minds of the audience are all engaged in finishing it together. And so our stage is our rehearsal hall — perhaps a version of Aldeburgh’s Jubilee Hall, where Britten worked amongst his community to find the musical expression appropriate to the energies, the rhythms, the dreams of his world. It is a space for the good people of The Borough to reveal their lives, to tell their story.

It is interesting that Britten went to some pains to place inside this story the author, Dr. Crabbe. It provided us with the seed of an idea, perhaps, about the parental act of creating the story: Dr. Crabbe has conceived these characters, this story, and sits back as their father and watches as these creations of his mind come to life and act. To some extent Crabbe’s poem can be seen as a speculation on the mystery of creation — and the creation of human pain, misery, frustration. In 1945, at the end of the most dreadful war in human history, Britten wrote this magnificent study of a village by the sea. But he is asking all the way through it — where does our rage come from? What is the complex equation in the community, in the human heart, that results in evil?

- Neil Armfield


A scene from the Canadian Opera Company production of Peter Grimes, 2013. Photo: Michael Cooper.