I've been to see the Australian Opera's current production of the Benjamin Britten opera, "Peter Grimes'. It's a thrilling, if grim, evening out. Britten's opera is based on an 1810 poem, 'The Borough', by George Crabb and is a tale of grim, hard-working lives lived out in a judgmental, unforgiving community.
Britten - or maybe Neil Armfield who directed this production - set the story in an English east-coast fishing village in the immediate post second world war period. The small town claustrophobia is emphasised by the set - a dull and austere church or village hall. Peter Grimes is a fisherman who decides earning money through his own unrelenting labour and the brutal exploitation of his boy apprentices is the only way to gain grudging acceptance and admiration from his community. But the townspeople judge him harshly when first one and then a second apprentice dies in his employ. The music wrenches your emotions - whether it's Grimes' defiance of the community's opinions, schoolmistress Ellen's despair at the apprentices' fate, or the community's damning of Grimes. Stuart Skelton, large and unkempt, sang superbly as Peter Grimes, and the chorus of townspeople brought shivers to the back of my neck.
And for knitters there was so much to see. Tess Schofield, who seems to specialise somewhat in her knowledge of the immediate post-war period, was responsible for the costumes and there was just so much knitting. Of course, large thick fisherman's jerseys, and fair-isle vests and buttoned-up cardigans under jackets on the men. And cardigans - rather fitted and cabled - on the women. Most of the colours were drab and dull but two sisters - flibbertigibbets or perhaps even more morally questionable - were dressed in blue and green finely cabled cardigans over floral shirt-dresses, with the collars of the dresses neatly turned out over the cardigans. I wasn't close enough to the stage to tell if they really were handknits, but I do hope they were. If they weren't they were wonderful facsimiles.