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  • Sentimentality under Erasure in Peter Grimes

    Christopher Chowrimootoo

    Chapter from the book: Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. Middlebrow Modernism: Britten’s Operas and the Great Divide.


    Chapter two examines how Peter Grimes (1945) undermined oppositions between “difficult” realism and “easy” sentimentality. After detailing critical attempts to style Grimes as an authentic modernist opera that shocked early audiences, it uncovers the more sentimental charms that they struggled to erase: its idealized vision of love, its melodrama, its manipulation of sympathy, its compelling musical lyricism, among other features. Beyond pointing out previous omissions, the chapter seeks to explain how Britten’s opera encourages the subtractive reactions it received. Ultimately, it is argued that by pitting “romantic” tropes against “modernist” ones, sumptuous lyricism against its erasure, Grimes was able to stage its own difficulty – translating modernism’s supposed rejection of nineteenth-century sentimentality into a rhetorical style.

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    Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. Sentimentality under Erasure in Peter Grimes. In: Chowrimootoo, C, Middlebrow Modernism. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.57.b

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Oct. 8, 2018