Fisherman Peter Grimes’s young apprentice has died at sea. The court rules that the incident was an accident, but Grimes is advised not to take another apprentice. He is relieved by the court, but still guilty in the eyes of the villagers.
Though ostracised by the community, Grimes doesn’t want to leave the small fishing village. He wants to stay where his roots are, earn back the villagers’ respect, and marry Ellen, the woman he loves. Soon he recruits a new apprentice.
It doesn’t take long for another tragedy to unfold. Grimes has opened a hatch to the ship in his house, and the boy falls in. The villages are furious and blame Grimes for yet another boy’s death, while Ellen tries to protect him. The sea captain tells Grimes he should sail out in his ship and drown himself.
As the morning breaks, the town slowly comes alive again. The judge, Swallow, announces that a ship is sinking out at sea. No one says or does anything. A new day begins.
You can read the full synopsis and other background information in the programme booklet.