It was back to the Four Seasons Centre last night for a second look at the COC’s Peter Grimes. This time Ben Heppner was singing the titled role as scheduled. Everything else was much the same as opening night and so I’ll just focus on the differences between Tony Dean-Griffey and Ben. In many ways their interpretations are similar. They both come across as “gentle giants”; alienated and outside Borough society but not really “brutal and coarse” as the libretto has it. In both cases the violence offered to Ellen in Act 2 seems to come from nowhere. The big difference, it seems to me, is that Dean Griffey has the voice to sing that interpretation. He can float the high notes in Now the Great Bear and Pleiades and What Harbour Shelters Peace in the disturbing and otherwordly manner of a Pears or a Langridge. Perhaps Heppner once had that quality but if he did it has gone. What Heppner does have is great acting powers. The prologue and the final scene were nuanced and compelling and worth the price of admission. In between he had his moments but he clearly isn’t over the problems that kept him out of opening night and there were a couple of quite jaw dropping moments in the scene in his hut. None of this stopped the Four Seasons crowd from giving him a rapturous reception.
Peter Grimes remains a great show with brilliance from the orchestra and chorus, a very fine Balstrode from Alan Held and strong performances from the other soloists. I’m glad I saw the show with both tenors and I would certainly recommend it highly with either. There are four more performances between now and October 26th.