Review: San Francisco Symphony’s semi-staged “Peter Grimes”

Posted on: July 3, 2014

In Wednesday’s (7/2) Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed writes, “Over the weekend, the San Francisco Symphony ended a three-week Britten Centennial Celebration with a magnificently mortifying semi-staged Peter Grimes, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, alongside a bewitching suite from Britten’s Balinese ballet, ‘Prince of the Pagodas.’ The conditions inside and out of Davies Symphony Hall, as well as the performances, were extraordinary…. For its semi-staging, the San Francisco Symphony created its own effectively claustrophobic space by surrounding the stage with two rough-edged cycloramas behind the orchestra. Misty images of the waves, the sky and the village were projected on them.… Being in the audience felt like sitting inside a ship, looking out at the dreary coast. James Darrah, the director and costume designer, offered a sea of gloomy grays and rough-hewn villagers to complete the picture.… The context of the weekend added more. San Francisco happened to be in both celebration and commemoration mode. Another centenary was being acknowledged—the start of World War I. (Texts by World War I poet Wilfred Owen formed the basis for Britten’s pacifist masterpiece, ‘War’ Requiem.) Plus it was gay pride weekend. It was as if Britten’s battles had been won.”

Posted July 3, 2014