Synopsis by Craig Butler
Written in 1945, Benjamin Britten's opera is based on a poem by George Crabbe and set in a small English coastal village in 1830. Peter Grimes is a brusque and impolite fisherman whose stock with the villagers is low, especially after his apprentice dies under circumstances that arouse suspicion among the townsfolk. Only Ellen Orford, the local teacher, stands up for Grimes, for whom she has deep feelings. A new apprentice, John, is located at the town workhouse, and Ellen helps Grimes fetch him, which brings forth criticism from onlookers. Meanwhile, a fierce storm begins brewing and is at full gale when Ellen returns with John. Against the protests of the assembled, Grimes takes the new apprentice onto his ship, in spite of the fierce weather. Later, Ellen is concerned about a bruise she has spied on John's neck. She tells Grimes that peace of mind cannot be bought by dint of hard labor, angering the fisherman, who hits her. A mob forms to apprehend Grimes. At his hut, Grimes hears the mob coming and forces John out the back of the hut. In the rush and hurry, John accidentally falls from a cliff. Grimes escapes, and the townspeople search for John. Some nights later, a raving Grimes reappears, just after the death of the apprentice has been confirmed. Grimes sails his boat away and sinks it, following it into its watery grave.
apprentice, fisherman, suspicion, teacher, village