Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater's Peter Grimes

1st Edition

Sam Kinchin-Smith

Published February 14, 2018
Reference - 88 Pages
ISBN 9781138678668 - CAT# Y231854
Series: The Fourth Wall

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The series...

  • Cheap, easily digestible format – an appealing impulse buy for a range of readers.
  • A new mode of jargon-free, accessible books for non-scholars.
  • Focusing on a single play gives an in-depth exploration ideal for HE study

The book...

  • Offers a new and accessible way of thinking about opera - as theatre
  • Makes the bold argument that Peter Grimes is one of the great works of 20th Century theatre
  • Seeks to re-write the traditional view of the 1940s as a 'fallow period' in English theatre


 ‘Who can turn skies back and begin again?’



This book contends that Peter Grimes, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential operas of the 20th century, is also one of the British theatre’s finest ‘lost’ plays. Seeking to liberate Britten and Slater’s work from the blinkered traditions of theatre and opera criticism, Sam Kinchin-Smith poses two questions:

  • If an opera was created like a play, and can be staged as a play, is it a play?
  • If a portion of its success and influence is the product of this newly identified theatrical engine, is it then a great play?

The answers involve Wagner and W.G. Sebald, George Crabbe and Complicité, Akenfield and Twin Peaks.

Challenging long-established narratives of post-war theatre history, this book makes a compelling case for why practitioners and scholars of performance ought to pay more attention to Britten and Slater’s achievement – a milestone of unconventional English modernism – and perhaps to other operatic masterpieces too.


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