Set Designer and Costume Designer
Théâtre de la Monnaie
Cor de la Generalitat
Francesc Perales, chorus master
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana
The action takes place in a fishing village on the east coast of England. In front of the entire town, the investigating judge interrogates the fisherman Peter Grimes about the death of his cabin boy, the second one to die under his command. The locals distrust the sullen fisherman, whose only supporter is the schoolteacher, Ellen Orford, who is in love with him. Still, the court finds no evidence of criminal conduct in Grimes´actions, although they do prohibit him from taking on a new cabin boy.
In need of help to carry out his work, Grimes decides to hire a new cabin boy. With the help of Ellen and against the advice of his friend Captain Balstrode, Grimes chooses to take on John, a boy from the orphanage. When he goes to pick the boy up at the local pub, his appearance gives rise to open disapproval, as expressed by the accusatory silence of his neighbors. Ellen and Balstrode intercede on the fisherman’s behalf and Grimes leaves with John, ignoring both the attitude of the villagers as well as the fury of nature, which unleashes a terrible storm over the town.
Several weeks have passed and rumors about Grimes and his mistreatment of the new cabin boy have been growing in the village. Ellen speaks with John and becomes worried when she sees him with torn clothes and a wound on his neck. When she argues with Grimes about his treatment of the boy, he speaks harshly to her, striking her before leaving abruptly. But several neighbors have witnessed the scene and they rile the anger of the villagers, who go off in search of Grimes to punish him while leaving Ellen alone in her misery.
Back in his hut, Grimes urges John to sail immediately, dreaming of a big catch and his future with Ellen. His reverie is interrupted by the sound of the villagers approaching the hut in search of him. Distrustful and fearful, Grimes decides to flee with the cabin boy, who accidentally falls off a cliff. When the townspeople arrive at the hut, they find it empty.
During a village dance, suspicions about Grimes grow again, especially with the prolonged absence of both the fisherman and his cabin boy. When Ellen confirms to Balstrode that a sweater he has found on the beach is the same one she knit for the boy, the neighbors decide to hunt Grimes down.
Alone, Grimes descends into madness as he hears the menacing voices of the townspeople approach. Ellen and Balstrode find the fisherman and Balstrode, in front of a desperate Ellen, convinces Grimes to sail his ship out to the open sea and sink along with it. At dawn, the villagers start their day; they receive news that a ship is sinking on the high seas, but since they cannot see it, they ignore the news as an unfounded rumor.