Opera Scotland

Peter Grimes 1950Covent Garden Opera

Read more about the opera Peter Grimes

The Covent Garden Opera's 1950 Edinburgh visit lasted two weeks, commencing Monday, 17 April 1950. Audiences keen to experience Peter Grimes for themselves were obliged to remain patient until the Friday of the second week.

There were complaints because what was already acknowledged as one of the great twentieth century operas had taken as long as five years to reach Scotland. The phenomenon had already been seen all over the world. While there was relief that it had arrived at last. there was further cause for disappointment as the creators of Peter and Ellen, Peter Pears and Joan Cross, did not journey north. But at least Reginald Goodall was the man who had conducted that famous first night at Sadler's Wells - this was many years before his wonderful reputation as a Wagnerian developed.

Edith Coates had created the role of Auntie - admittedly she was here coming on as a replacement for the published artist, Jean Watson. Dennis Stephenson was also a late substitute for Rhydderch Davies. Tyrone Guthrie was already a well-established director at the Old Vic and Edinburgh Festival. His staging of Grimes had been launched at Covent Garden in 1946, just a few months after that premiere.

The Scotsman critic (29 April 1950) thought it astonishing that Grimes was Britten's first opera. "The first act took a little to warm up, but the second and third grew in horrifying tension. This was largely due to Richard Lewis, who gave one of his best performances."

"Elizabeth Abercrombie was a moving Ellen while all the subsidiary parts were played with fine gusto, particularly the outrageous 'Auntie' (Edith Coates) who came straight out of a Rowlandson print".

As for Goodall, "..he raised the orchestra to exciting standards."

Cast details are from a copy of the programme in the OperaScotland collection.

Performance Cast

Hobson carrier, constable of The Borough

Dennis Stephenson

Swallow lawyer, Mayor of The Borough

Ernest Davies

Peter Grimes a fisherman

Richard Lewis

Mrs 'Nabob' Sedley widow of an East India Company factor

Monica Sinclair

Ellen Orford widow and schoolmistress

Elisabeth Abercrombie

Captain Balstrode a retired sea officer

Tom Williams

Bob Boles fisherman and Methodist

Parry Jones

Rev Horace Adams the Rector

David Tree

Auntie landlady of 'The Boar'

Edith Coates

First 'Niece'

Blanche Turner

Second 'Niece'

Muriel Burnett

Ned Keene apothecary and quack

Grahame Clifford

John the new apprentice

John Coltart

Performance DatesPeter Grimes 1950

Map List

Empire Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Apr, 19.00

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