Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater's Peter Grimes: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater's Peter Grimes

1st Edition

By Sam Kinchin-Smith


88 pages

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Paperback: 9781138678668
pub: 2018-02-14
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 ‘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.

Table of Contents

1. Grimes on the Beach 2. Opera as Theatre: Why Peter Grimes is a Play 3. The Suffolk Renaissance: Why Peter Grimes is a Great Play

About the Author

Sam Kinchin-Smith, like Peter Grimes, was born in Suffolk and now lives on/in a boat. He works for the London Review of Books and has written for publications including the New Statesman, Condé Nast Traveller and the Independent.

About the Series

The Fourth Wall

Routledge’s Fourth Wall books are short, accessible accounts of some of modern theatre’s best loved works. They take a subjective but easily digestible approach to their topics, allowing their authors the opportunity to explore their chosen subject in a way that is absorbing enough to be of use both to lovers of theatre and those who are being asked to study a play more deeply.

Each book in the series looks at a specific play, variously exploring its themes, contexts and characteristics while prioritising original, insightful writing over complexity or scholarly weight. While other cultural products such as albums and films are well served by this kind of writing, the Fourth Wall series aims to find room between rigorous analysis and the short format of reviews or articles. They are extended accounts that get to the heart of their chosen works without being bound by the density that academic treatments can often require.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Opera
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / General
PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / History & Criticism