- Peter Grimes, opera, Op. 33
Thankfully, opera companies are taking chances on more recent repertory these days, though the "20th-century opera" label still scares some audiences away. Benjamin Britten's sublime Peter Grimes is a modern opera that's so accessible and dramatically compelling it may startle even the most conservative operagoer. In this performance we have the rare pleasure of enjoying a high-quality recording where the composer himself is conducting. Britten wrote the opera for his lifelong lover, Peter Pears, and on this 1958 recording the tenor is haunting as the doomed fisherman. Claire Watson is appealing as Ellen Orford, though several younger sopranos have portrayed the role with more sumptuous vocal beauty. The real marvels here are the extensive choral scenes and the orchestral interludes in which the Royal Opera House Orchestra and Chorus play acquit themselves beautifully. This is still the greatest recording of this moving 20th-century masterpiece.