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Get to know Britten's tragic opera, about a Suffolk fisherman and his uneasy relationship with his neighbours, with our synopsis and stunning pictures from English National Opera's current production.
The opera opens with Peter Grimes being questioned at an inquest over the death of an apprentice. The outspoken townsfolk of The Borough believe Grimes is guilty. The coroner, Mr Swallow, declares the boy's death to be accidental but advises Grimes not to get another apprentice. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
Ellen Orford, the schoolmistress, attempts to comfort Grimes as he rages against the community's attitude towards him. The Borough apothecary Ned Keene, finds Grimes a new apprentice from the workhouse. Nobody will volunteer to fetch the boy, until Ellen – whom Grimes wishes to marry – offers. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
Ellen brings John, the new apprentice, to Grimes at the tavern - The Boar - kept by ‘Auntie’ (pictured) and her ‘nieces’, who ‘assign their prettiness’ to the locals. That evening, Grimes immediately sets off to his hut, despite the fact that the Borough is being hit by a terrible storm. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
On Sunday morning, while most of the town is at church, Ellen talks with John, Grimes' new apprentice. She is horrified when she finds a bruise on his neck. When Ellen confronts Grimes about it, he brusquely claims that it was an accident. Growing agitated at Ellen's concern and interference, he strikes her and runs off with the boy. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
Grimes striking Ellen does not go unseen. The people of The Borough form a mob and march up to investigate Grimes's hut. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
As the mob marches off, Ellen, Auntie, and her 'nieces' sing sadly of the relationship of women with men. 'And shall we be ashamed because we comfort men from ugliness?' the nieces sing. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
When Grimes hears the mob of villagers approaching, he gets ready to set out to sea. He tells John to be careful climbing down the cliff to his boat, but the boy falls to his death. When the mob reaches the hut, Grimes is gone and they find nothing out of order, so they disperse. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
The noble Captain Balstrode discovers a jersey washed ashore. Ellen recognises it as one she had knitted for John. Photo © ENO/Robert Workman
The elderly laudanum addict Mrs. Sedley tries to convince the authorities that Grimes is a murderer. The mob goes off in search of him again.
John's death has pushed Grimes over the edge. Ellen and Balstrode find him, and the old captain encourages Grimes to take his boat out to sea and sink it. Grimes leaves. The next morning, the Borough begins its day anew, as if nothing has happened. There is a report from the coast guard of a ship sinking off the coast.
Launching in February 2014, ENO Screen will see ENO’s productions broadcast live into cinemas across the UK and Ireland and selected cinemas worldwide. Experience the searing psychological drama, intrigue and suspense, screened live from the London Coliseum on 24 February.