I shall leave most of the raving and effusing to the slightly more objective press, but it has to be said that the Peter Grimes Prom on Friday was, well, huge. In every way. The semi staging (by Donna Stirrup, based on David Alden's 2009 ENO production) was incredibly effective, as were the black and white costumes (trivia: Peter Grimes supplied his own jersey) and the carefully selected props. If anything the action was intensified by the restrictions of a concert performance, and what movement there was stood out even more boldly. (More trivia: Grimes's dive after the rope was wholly spontaneous, and probably caused minor cardiac arrest in an occupational health and safety warden somewhere.)
The dream cast did their sensational thing. I'd seen a lot of them in Oviedo earlier this year and all– Leigh Melrose, Gillian Ramm, Michael Colvin, Rebecca de Pont Davies, Darren Jeffery – remained in fabulous form. Those I'd not seen were uniformly excellent. I want to make particularly special mention of three of them: Amanda Roocroft, for breaking my little heart; Felicity Palmer for the curdled hilarity (and still powerful voice) of her Mrs Sedley; and most of all Iain Paterson, whose role début as Balstrode found him in ridiculously good voice. He was a wonderful Amfortas at the ENO last year, but he's somehow even better now, and it made my week to hear him blitz this great role so completely. But you know, it's such an ensemble piece that I need to namecheck everyone. Mairead Buicke, Mark Richardson, Stuart Kale, the amazing ENO chorus and orchestra, and to the man in charge of them all, the masterful Ed Gardner. Massive kudos to all of you.
As for Grimes himself, what can I say? The comments I made before I'd even met the man are partisan enough; now that I've lost all objectivity and used up most of my adjectives, all I'll say is that he's a wonder in this role. How he does it, I still don't know; you could meet him backstage half an hour beforehand and still not quite see the hurricane coming. For the gory (glorious) detail, see the review links below. As for me, I was bursting with pride.
And then this happened...
It was even louder in person of course, especially when the folks in the arena started stomping. If you were there on Friday, or in London or Sydney in 2009, then I know you'll understand the response.
Now, some reviews. They're all raves.
Tim Ashley in The Guardian
Melanie Eskenazi for MusicOMH
Robert Beattie for Seen and Heard International
Julia Savage for Bachtrack
Daily Mail (not many words but some wonderful images)
Simon Thomas for What's On Stage
Mark Valencia for Classical Source
And possibly my favourite, Dominic Wells for Opera Britannia
This wasn't my first Prom, but it was only my second, and it was certainly my first introduction to the full Proms experience: I took my increasingly famous pig down to the arena queue, and met for the first time a lot of people I'd previously known only via Twitter. It seemed like everybody was there: it actually took until the night before the show to find a home for the spare ticket I had, because everyone I could think to take was already going. The pig went and prommed in the arena, even meeting Henry Wood himself, and I sat up in the stalls being awestruck. Peter Grimes is possibly my favourite opera of all and I couldn't have asked for better circumstances in which to hear it.
The BBC radio broadcast of the concert is still available online until the end of the month. If your heart's up to it, have a listen.