‘Peter Grimes’ Sails on Choppy Seas of Brexit and the Pandemic
In Madrid, the British singers welcomed the chance to perform in a major “Peter Grimes” production involving about 150 artists, at a time when most opera houses in Europe and the United States are closed, but they also sounded anxious about what would come afterward.
James Gilchrist, who sings the part of a priest in Britten’s opera, said that 90 percent of his work had been in the European Union rather than in Britain, which made him worried not only about his own future but also the prospects for younger artists. “If you are a promoter in Frankfurt or somewhere like that, you are not going to want to put a British artist at the top of your list, because it is just such a hassle,” he said.
“For very well-established artists, that is probably less of a problem because their name on the poster will bring people in, but if you are more at the beginning of your career, I think this is going to be very, very hard.”
Matabosch said the Teatro Real was committed to having the best possible lineups, irrespective of nationality. He forecast that the post-Brexit travel rules would become easier to navigate, but he acknowledged that British performers risked losing substitution work, which is an important part of their incomes.
“I’m sure that we will end up knowing exactly how to bring over a British singer, just as people also come here from Australia or Canada. But the problem is that if you need a last-minute replacement and have to fly somebody over that very morning, this is not really doable from Britain at the moment,” Matabosch said.
Another British member of the “Peter Grimes” cast, John Graham-Hall, thanked the Teatro Real for helping overcome travel hurdles that left him with “the very nasty feeling that the British government does not care about the arts.” He also gave a succinct summary of the twin hurdles raised by Brexit and the pandemic: “It’s a bloody nightmare.”
Alex Marshall contributed reporting from London