This evening I attended the China premiere of Britten's opera Peter Grimes, which we'd had a little hand in arranging. Because of cost, it wasn't the full opera with stage & costumes, but the concert version. But it was impressive nonetheless, with full orchestra, choir of 60+ and soloists crammed onto the Poly Theatre stage.
Grimes is a sad, strange story, written during the Second World War when Britten & his partner Perter Pears were based in California. Was the antisocial fisherman responsible for the deaths of two boy apprentices? The Suffolk village-folk seem to think so, but It leaves the audience to make up its own mind. It's seen by many as an allegory of the struggle of the individual against the masses, but I thought of it as a study of madness. The tenor Andrew Staples, who looks increasingly like Eddie Izzard, played him with nervous ticks and fixed gaze.
Interesting to see the Chinese reaction. Most opera presented here is of the Rossini-Verdi-Puccini variety and it's quite rare to see a 20th Century work, especially from Britain. But it went down very well. As had Britten's other biggie, War Requiem, at the weekend (which I missed).