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Britten's Peter Grimes with the STL Symphony and Chorus

WQXR-Julien JourdesPhoto Credit: Julien Jourdes

In November, 2013 the orchestra and chorus presented Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes at Carnegie Hall in celebration of the composer's 100th birthday. Read the reviews and materials from this memorable concert.

The Cast

David Robertson, Conductor
Anthony Dean Griffey, Tenor Peter Grimes
Susanna Phillips, Soprano Ellen Orford
Alan Held, Bass-Baritone Captain Balstrode
Meredith Arwady, Contralto Auntie
Leela Subramaniam, Soprano Niece 1
Summer Hassan, Soprano Niece 2
Thomas Cooley, Tenor Bob Boles
Patrick Carfizzi, Bass-Baritone Swallow
Nancy Maultsby, Mezzo-Soprano Mrs. Sedley
Keith Boyer, Tenor Rev. Horace Adams
Liam Bonner, Baritone Ned Keene
David Pittsinger, Bass-Baritone Hobson
St. Louis Symphony Chorus
     Amy Kaiser, Director

Carnegie Concert Reviews

Carnegie Hall’s Britten festival culminated on Nov. 22, the exact day of the composer’s centennial, with a shattering concert performance of “Peter Grimes.” The conductor David Robertson drew a lucid, searing account of this milestone 20th-century opera from the inspired St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and an ideal cast...
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, December 13, 2013 [St. Louis Symphony’s ‘Peter Grimes’ (#5 of Top Ten performances of 2013)]

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David Robertson, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and Orchestra and a great cast of soloists came pretty close to perfection Saturday night.
Sarah Bryan Miller, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 2013

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The performance was beyond all superlatives...The prime stars of the night were Robertson and the orchestra and chorus. It is impossible to recall or imagine more emotionally riveting musicmaking than that heard in Carnegie hall Friday night....There is no audio or video recording of Peter Grimes that can match this concert.
George Grella, New York Classical Review, November 23, 2013

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The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Chorus brought "Peter Grimes" to Carnegie Hall Friday evening in its entire dark splendor, performed by them and a peerless cast of brilliant, young singers, and conducted by its music director, the unquestioned genius David Robertson. Its magnificence struck the near-sellout audience in the hall with nothing less than the force of revelation...Friday night, at Carnegie Hall, David Robertson, the chorus of the symphony, a cast of young but glistening stars, brought down the house.
Robert W. Duffy, stlbeacon.org, November 23, 2013

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Peter Grimes in Carnegie HallDavid Robertson asknowledges violist Beth Guterman Chu. Photo Credit: Peter Matthews

What Robertson and his players brought to Carnegie last night was nothing short of extraordinary...The chorus, which plays such a central role in this opera, sang with searing intensity. There were also cleaver bits of stagecraft, such as placing the chorus and an electronic organ at the back of the hall during the church scene in the beginning of Act II...For all of the wondrous music that passes through this town on a regular basis, there are precious few performances that rise to the level of sheer genius. This performance of Peter Grimes was one of them.
Peter Matthews, Feast of Music, November 23, 2013

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In a chorus that builds with dizzying intensity, the villagers cry out for Grimes to be caught and punished. “Him who despises us we’ll destroy!” they sing. I have never heard this chilling scene performed with such vehemence as it was at Carnegie Hall on Friday night. David Robertson, conducting the St. Louis Symphony and Chorus and an ideal cast of singers headed by the superb tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, led an extraordinary concert performance of “Peter Grimes.” The impressive chorus (Amy Kaiser, director) and the orchestra...conveyed not just the seething emotions in this climax but also the hint of maniacal glee that runs through the music. Reinforced by slashing chords in the orchestra, the choristers finally called out the culprit by name, singing “Peter Grimes” in a series of ferocious outbursts separated by near-silences, gauged for terrifying dramatic effect by Mr. Robertson.
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, November 23, 2013

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Orchestra and chorus gave world-class performances.
David Patrick Stearns, WQXR Operavore, November 25, 2013

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It was...fascinating to hear how Robertson differs from the composer in his conception of the score’s basic sonority, preferring richer, more lusciously textured orchestral patterns but producing an overall sound that is just as instrumentally transparent and rhythmically precise. That description could also be applied to the razor-sharp work of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, prepared by its director, Amy Kaiser.
Peter G. Davis, MusicalAmerica.com, November 25, 2013

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The St. Louis Symphony and its chorus of more than 100, conducted by David Robertson, gave this harrowing opera its dramatic due. In full cry, these splendid forces were terrifying, but they could also scale back into transparency for pictorial evocations of the breaking dawn and create the rhythmic ebb and flow of the sea.
Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2013

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David Robertson with symphony and chorusDavid Robertson accepts the audience's enthusiastic reception on behalf of the orchestra and chorus. Photo Credit: Peter Matthews

NEW YORK – When the music and its making are fine enough, a decent imagination can fill in for a million-dollar staged opera production. Just give the conductor David Robertson a place for his forces to stand and deliver. That sufficed on Nov. 22 when Robertson, his splendid St. Louis Symphony and Chorus, and a grand cast of soloists made the most of the Carnegie Hall acoustics. It was more than enough to bring Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes to vivid and dramatic life...The nemesis and the second principal were the townspeople, represented by Amy Kaiser’s top-notch St. Louis Symphony Chorus of well over 100 voices, seated in mixed quartets. Britten’s choral writing here is mostly simple, direct, and harmonic, with large stretches in unisons that project a telling depth when sung by so many. The storm scene morale-booster, “Old Joe has gone fishing,” worked its powerful way, lurching like a drunkard in 7/4 time. It was striking to have half the chorus sing from the auditorium rear instead of offstage, portraying the church choir heard accompanying Ellen Orford’s aria to Grimes’ little boy apprentice, opening the Sunday morning scene...Robertson led the forces of his St. Louis Symphony brilliantly, achieving utter clarity in a first-class, recording-ready performance of this translucent score. It was impressive – a sweep
Robert P. Commanday, Classicalvoiceamerica.org, November 26, 2013

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