Heads Up: Britten in Aldeburgh

Grimeswatch: in the concert hall, on the beach, round town …

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

In composer Benjamin Britten’s centenary year, a series of events in his home town – Aldeburgh, Suffolk – celebrate his most famous opera, Peter Grimes, inspired by the coastal spot. As part of the Aldeburgh Festival, Grimes in Aldeburgh will feature not only a concert of the opera’s score in the Snape Maltings concert hall, but also a show on the beach itself. There’s also a Punchdrunk theatre show, The Borough, inspired by Peter Grimes, which takes you on a “sonic journey around the town”.

ELEVATOR PITCH Oh we do like to Grimes beside the seaside.

PRIME MOVERS It’s conducted by Steuart Bedford, a Britten expert; the beach action is directed by Tim Albery (who recently won praise for Otello with Opera North). Felix Barrett leads the Punchdrunk Theatre Company in devising the new work.

THE TALENT The Britten-Pears orchestra perform, with the title role taken by Alan Oke (Caliban in Robert Lepage’s The Tempest for the Met Opera; Gandhi in ENO’s Satyagraha).

THE EARLY BUZZ Simon Tait in The Stage wrote that Peter Grimes “has never been staged in [Britten’s] own Aldeburgh Festival because it’s too big for the concert hall he created, easily the largest venue in the area. And it won’t be staged in this his centenary year. But it will be produced … Tim Albery will make a dramatic new venue out of the very beach at Aldeburgh that Grimes would have sailed from.” Classical-music.com also commented: “First written for Peter Pears, the role of Grimes is sung by Alan Oke, who received huge critical acclaim for his portrayal of Aschenbach in the 2007 Aldeburgh Festival production of Death in Venice. This performance gives you a rare chance to hear the opera in the magnificent concert hall that Britten built.”

INSIDE KNOWLEDGE The beach-turned-venue was where Britten himself used to go for a swim every morning.

IT’S GREAT THAT… while the orchestra is (unsurprisingly) pre-recorded for the beach shows, the recording will be made just a few days before in the concert hall.

IT’S A SHAME THAT… it’s so expensive: sitting on a bench costs up to £70, while we’re willing to bet it’s the first time you’ve spent £40 to park your bottom on a shingle beach …

HIT POTENTIAL Already selling well; will feel like a real event in the town.

THE DETAILS Grimes in Aldeburgh takes place at various venues, from  7 to 23 June.