Book Review: Benjamin Britten and Montagu Slater’s ‘Peter Grimes’ by Sam Kinchin-Smith

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2018


Routledge describes its Fourth Wall series as providing fresh perspectives on classic plays that bring these works to life. Cast in compact form, each volume presents an “original angle” on an individual work. Although the series has concentrated primarily on theatre, a few efforts are devoted to popular musicals, among them Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and The Sound of Music. It is quite odd, then, to find among its offerings a volume on an opera with an equally curious title and written by a leading British critic whose attentions range from popular music to Jeremy Corbyn to cookbooks. But Sam Kinchin-Smith, who pulls no punches in his pursuit of understanding the essence of a cultural product, does indeed have a fresh perspective, even if the evidence he offers in support of his thesis—that Grimes is a great play—actually lends credence to a more interesting discourse: that the music in Grimes is essentially cinematic. It is this observation, which was explicitly stated by such Britten scholars as Donald Mitchell and Paul Kildea and certainly addressed by David Crilly in his article in Benjamin Britten: New Perspectives on His Life and Work (ed. by Lucy Walker, Boydell, 2009) but perhaps not developed to its fullest in the context of this work, that makes this slim volume thought-provoking, even if the illustrations contained within are rather poorly reproduced.


Copyright © 2018 North American British Music Studies Association.