Opera and Madness: Britten's Peter Grimes-a Case Study
Medical Humanities 2009 December; 35(2): 106-109
In this paper, Britten's opera Peter Grimes (1945) is used as an illustrative case study through which to examine the depiction of psychiatric disorders in opera. It is argued that Peter Grimes is a powerful example of how opera, in the hands of a great composer, can become an invaluable tool for examining subjective human experience. After a brief discussion of opera as a vehicle to express emotions, various operas are drawn upon to provide a historical perspective and to demonstrate the long interconnection existing between opera and madness. An in-depth analysis of Peter Grimes, its background and central character, is then provided, in order to demonstrate how opera can elicit empathy for individuals affected by mental health problems.
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