When Edward Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic first brought their staging of Peter Grimes to the UK, to the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival, The Spectator called it “the best Peter Grimes I’ve ever seen.” So, it was with much anticipation that audiences and critics alike awaited last Saturday’s performance at London’s Southbank Centre, bringing the work back to the city that staged its world premiere nearly 75 years ago.
The Bergen Philharmonic’s staging was originally presented by the Bergen International Festival, Bergen National Opera and the orchestra in the Grieghallen, Bergen on 30 May 2017. With a cast that included Stuart Skelton as Grimes, Erin Wall as Ellen, Catherine Wyn-Rogers as Mrs Sedley, Robert Murray as Bob Boles, Susan Bickley as Auntie and Roderick Williams as Balstrode, this weekend’s outing has once again been hailed as a triumph.
Awarding five stars, The Guardian’s Tim Ashley described it as “a formidable achievement, at once fiercely intelligent and visceral in its power”, while Matthew Rye of bachtrack praised Ed’s command of Britten’s dramatic idiom, calling it “second to none.”
“His pacing was perfect,” Rye continues, “his ability to make way for the singers’ words the work of a true operatic master, and in his hands the Sea Interludes took their place as central parts of the drama, rather than as mere scene-setting.”
Conductor, orchestra, choirs and soloists also put the work on tape the week before their London performance, for a recording that will be released on Chandos Records in September 2020.
Askonas Holt has had the pleasure of working with the Bergen Philharmonic on touring projects for several years; including multiple European tours, and acclaimed performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, both in 2017.
Read excerpts from reviews below:
“[the Bergen Philharmonic’s semi-staging of Britten’s Peter Grimes] can only be described as a formidable achievement, at once fiercely intelligent and visceral in its power.”
“Gardner’s interpretation, already familiar from performances at ENO and the Proms, places the emphasis on the metaphysical links between the arbitrary violence of nature and the abyss of the human soul. The Bergen orchestra’s playing combines richness with precision, and Britten’s seascapes glittered balefully even in moments of uneasy calm. The storm of act one, meanwhile, found its hideous human counterpart in the lynch mob that later bays for Grimes’s blood.” Tim Ashley, The Guardian ★★★★★
“[Ed Gardner and Stuart Skelton’s] is one of the great musical partnerships, and they continue to find compelling new depths in this tragic masterpiece.”
“Having the orchestra out front, rather than confined in the pit, not only imparted a tremendous punch to the fortissimo passages, it also allowed Gardner to reveal more fully than I have ever heard the wealth of atmospheric instrumental detail Britten poured into his score.” Richard Morrison, The Times ★★★★★
“Every little detail, like the gutty pizzicati for the Nieces’ wailing in the gale and the flurries of the magnificent Passacaglia, hit home with renewed realisation of Britten’s genius at every turn… The total triumph of the evening, then, rested with Gardner and his magnificent players. We need them back in concert at the Festival Hall, and soon.” David Nice, ArtsDesk ★★★★
“[Ed Gardner’s] command of Britten’s dramatic idiom is second to none. His pacing was perfect, his ability to make way for the singers’ words the work of a true operatic master, and in his hands the Sea Interludes took their place as central parts of the drama, rather than as mere scene-setting, most thrillingly in a real “bitch of a gale” in the Act 1 storm (to quote Captain Balstrode).” Matthew Rye, bachtrack ★★★★