Britten's Billy Budd

Michael Grandage (stage director), Mark Elder (conductor) – With Jacques Imbrailo (Billy Budd), John Mark Ainsley (Captain Vere)...

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Michael Grandage — Stage director

Christopher Oram — Designer

Paule Constable — Lighting designer

Tom Roden — Movement director

Jacques Imbrailo — Billy Budd

John Mark Ainsley — Captain Vere

Phillip Ens — Claggart

Iain Paterson — Mr Redburn

Matthew Rose — Mr Flint

Darren Jeffery — Lieutenant Ratcliffe

Alasdair Elliott — Red Whiskers

John Moore — Donald

Jeremy White — Dansker

Ben Johnson — Novice

Alexander Robin Baker — Novice’s Friend

Colin Judson — Squeak

Richard Mosley-Evans — Bosun

Program notes

Staged by Michael Grandage and directed by Mark Elder, Billy Budd was a resounding success at the 2000 Glyndebourne Festival—a magnificent production starring Jacques Imbrailo in the leading role, available to relive on medici.tv.

Adapted from Melville's novella, this four-act opera by Benjamin Britten was composed in 1951 for Covent Garden in London. To create the libretto, Britten enlisted the great novelist E.M. Forster and director Eric Crozier. Crozier wrote the dialogue and attended to historical accuracy, while Forster was tasked with the libretto's dramatic structure. The composer himself conducted the score the day of the work's London premiere.

Fortified by considerable research, Michael Grandage pulls off an exceptional mise en scène of this modern opera classic. Set designer Christopher Oram takes into account the director's search for authenticity with an accurate rendering of an 18th-century ship, while the faultless vocal cast and impeccable London Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Mark Elder, assure a first-rate interpretation.

Billy Budd takes us out to the high seas aboard the HMS Bellipotent in the year 1797, a period of turmoil for the Royal Navy as the Revolutionary French Republic's military ambitions threatened to lead to greater conflict. Captain Vere recalls a tragic episode that still haunts him, that of the young and handsome Billy Budd, who suffers from a stutter during moments of heightened emotion. During a naval battle, Budd is wrongly accused of inciting a mutiny and, unable to express himself through his speech impediment, ends up murdering his accuser—which leads Captain Vere to condemn the sailor to death. 

© Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photo: Alastair Muir

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