Peter Grimes is one of the roles for which American tenor Anthony Dean Griffey is best known: Australian audiences may have seen him in the cinema broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s Peter Grimes or at the West Australian Opera in 2009. This, however, is a much earlier Grimes, recorded live at Glyndebourne in 2000, and it’s likely his interpretation has matured since then.
Griffey sings with a strong, often beautiful voice, but his delivery is disappointingly monochromatic and restrained, never properly plunging into the vast emotional depths the role offers. From the indignation of the Act I storm scene, to the wistfulness and subsequent violence of Act II, to the final desolation of the mad scene, Griffey’s Grimes sounds basically the same, his expressive palette too limited to suggest the character’s extraordinary trajectory.
As his Ellen, Vivian Tierney makes a pallid beginning, but then hits her stride, singing the Embroidery Aria with a poignant, brittle sweetness. Susan Gorton is a suitably bawdy Auntie, though her voice is at times easily confused with that of Hilary Summers’ menacing Mrs Sedley, and Steven Page makes a solid if unmemorable Balstrode.
Other roles are all filled respectably and the Glyndebourne chorus is in good form, but ultimately the real excitement here comes from Mark Wigglesworth’s evocative and tumultuous reading of the score, vividly realised by the LPO. It’s in the pit rather than on stage that this recording offers the visceral thrill that Britten’s shattering masterpiece should.