The premiere of Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes on June 7, 1945, at Sadler's Wells Theatre, reverberated throughout London and quickly spread beyond the city to permanently impact postwar audiences. The success of the opera was chiefly due to Britten's ability to fine–tune a specific kind of realism in portraying Grimes's descent into madness. This thesis examines the way in which Britten tackles the difficult task of composing an opera centered on a “sadistic fisherman.” After a reading of the Act III mad scene, it describes how the character of Peter Grimes was shaped both dramaturgically and visually through a highly collaborative process. Finally, a short review of the opera's early reception confirms that its impact on contemporary audiences cannot be reduced to mere empathy for the eponymous anti–hero and his psychic demise. The complex dialectics of realistic premises and operatic conventions endowed the work with the potential to create a safe space in which to consider the recent horrors and utter devastation of World War II. More generally, this thesis proposes that by offering these distinct spaces for introspection, opera has the significant potential not only to teach us about our own past, but also to shape our ability to act in the future.
|Commitee:||Auner, Joseph, Bernstein, Jane|
|School Location:||United States -- Massachusetts|
|Source:||MAI 53/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
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