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Subject: Re: Peter Grimes
From: Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Goldberg <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 2 Mar 2018 20:43:47 -0500
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When she sings "we've failed," it's as much about her hopes of the Borough's 
forgiveness/acceptance of Peter than anything else. And if it is also about their 
relationship, well, what couple hasn't said similar things in the middle of a fight? She's 
not turning on him, she's just in the heat of the moment. And later in the scene, she 
again tries to defend her (and Grimes') actions to the crowd who have just come from 
church. 

What choice does Ellen have at the end? To pull out a gun like Leonora and sing "Tödte 
erst sein Weib?" She knows that Balstrode is right, even if she can't face it. There's never 
anything in the text that indicates she wants Peter to die (after all, she has come with 
Balstrode to try to help him) - but deep down she knows he can't return to the Borough 
either. 

For Ellen to suggest somehow that she escape with Peter - that's way too "Fanciulla" or 
even "Pearl Fishers" for the tone of this piece, and too easy of a solution. Peter must die, 
just as Billy Budd must. In the latter opera, we get to hear a bit of Vere's guilty 
conscience after all those many years, still questioning if he could have done anything. 
We also have to assume that Ellen is wracked with those thoughts. But in no way do I 
think her inaction at the end is tantamount to turning on him. I think that all 3 of them at 
that moment in the scene know that it has to end as it does. THAT's the tragedy. 
(Followed by the final scene of the Borough and the sea - which in many ways are as 
much the main characters of the drama as Peter and Ellen. "One of those rumors," quips 
Auntie at the news that a sinking boat has been sighted. Nothing has changed, really. 
That too is the tragedy.)

And as far as "women needing to comfort men," that's more a question pondered in that 
beautiful quartet between Auntie, Ellen, and the Nieces, where they take a moment to 
muse on men's behavior and their role in it. The quartet is built on questions - questions 
that remain unresolved. 

I do think you're being very quick to judge what "Grimes" is about. I'd urge you to read 
through the libretto (without music, even) and see if you find more in it before judging 
the characters mores so rashly. I'm not saying you have to fall in love with it, but I do feel 
that there's much more there than you're trying to, indeed, grossly compress. ;-)


On Fri, 2 Mar 2018 20:09:03 -0500, Kiwi <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>She tells Peter that their dreams have failed.
>
>Yes, in the 'Broidery' aria she is somewhat ambiguous but when the town folk
>threaten to turn on her, she turns on Peter and in a way all is blamed on
>women needing to comfort men (gross compression).
>
>When Balstrode tells Peter to kill himself, Ellen is not happy but makes no
>effort to stop it.
>
>In a way, Ellen's only future in that borough is to turn from Peter, since
>it comes down to a him versus them thing.  One of the biggest tragedies is
>that the two people who most supported Peter against the town were the two
>who ultimately sent him to die.
>
>As I said, some of the music is fabulous and the use of the chorus to
>represent to opposing side (the borough) was brilliant.  But when even the
>better angels in the society become blind to humanity, when the outsider /
>other is sent to his death...well, I understand opera can be tragic (I
>talked with someone after the performance and he didn't see anything
>different in substance between PG and Tosca) but I think the bleakness and
>inhumanity of PG, along with what I consider to be an uneven libretto with
>passages that don't really move the story forward, it's a tough opera to
>embrace.
>
>[I was told that half the audience left on opening night.  We lost only a
>few people the night I was there but the audience also had quite a few
>children in attendance, some quite young, and I have to wonder if this is a
>really good opera to take a child to?)
>
>
>
>
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Jon Goldberg
>Sent: Friday, March 02, 2018 7:21 PM
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Re: Peter Grimes
>
>Ellen never turns away from Peter. Even after he hits her. Even after she
>sadly realizes (in
>the achingly beautiful "Broidery" Aria) that he may well be guilty. And she
>is even
>shocked when Balstrode tells Peter (albeit compassionately) that his only
>choice at the
>end is to sink himself.
>
>Despite its tragic elements, the opera does have a great deal of humor -
>both in the
>music and the situations. And if you say that Ellen and Peter's romance is
>"doomed from
>the start," well I think one can say that about a huge number of operatic
>couples.
>
>Interesting that 3 of my favorite moments in the score are a-cappella (or
>virtually so).
>The first duet between Peter and Ellen at the end of the courthouse Prologue
>(where they
>are actually singing in different keys against each other, though those
>trade-off phrases
>are closely related enharmonically), Peter's final "mad scene" accompanied
>only by the a-
>capella offstage chorus and the foghorn - and, always one of the most
>goosebump-
>inducing spots in the score forme - the huge choral shouts of "Peter Grimes!
>Grimes!
>Grimes!" as they go off to search for him before that mad scene. Musical
>drama at its
>most intense.
>
>To me, Grimes is a masterwork, from beginning to end. But Kiwi, not everyone
>can like
>everything, of course, so if you didn't care for it, that's your valid
>reaction. Maybe if you
>get another chance with it, you'll find more to like. ;-)
>
>
>
>On Fri, 2 Mar 2018 18:14:20 -0500, Kiwi <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>>Just saw Peter Grimes and must say I have mixed feelings about it.
>>
>>The staging / directing was simple, direct, and appropriate, the acting
>>committed and
>the singing was fine. From a general perspective, everything fell into place
>and the piece
>was, I think, well presented.
>>
>>But.....
>>
>>I don’t know if I liked it.  The composition itself had moments of
>>stirring intensity
>and was certainly evocative, but I also found parts that grated.
>>
>>My companion and I both found the libretto awkward at moments and somewhat
>rambling, uneven, and unbalanced.
>>
>>And finally—and of course, this is a personal thing—I hated that Peter
>>never had a
>chance, that even the idea that he and Ellen had a future together was
>doomed.  From
>start to finish, it has to be the most unforgivingly tragic-laden opera
>I’ve experienced,
>really a condemnation of society writ large without a single saving grace,
>since in the end
>even Ellen turned away from Peter.
>>
>>I guess I loved some of the music, disliked the story construction, and
>>hated the
>bleakness.
>>
>>What did I miss?
>>
>>
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