Saturday, 27 April 2019

Britten Billy Budd, ROH reviewed by Claire Seymour

Jacques Imbrailo as Billy Budd, Royal Opera House -  Photo: Catherine Ashmore 2019

Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House with Jacques Imbrailo, Toby Spence and Brindley Sherratt, thoughtfully reviewed by Claire Seymour who wrote the book The Operas of Benjamin Britten : Expression and Evasion (2007) .  Read the full review here in Opera Today - seriously good analysis of an opera which is anything but just a jolly jig. 

"Director Deborah Warner, whose production of Billy Budd (a co-production with Madrid’s Teatro Real and Rome Opera) is the first for twenty years to grace the stage of the Royal Opera House, seems to be in accord with the views that Benjamin Britten expressed in a 1960 radio interview. For, it is Vere’s moral dilemma which dominates her interpretation. She makes no attempt to, as Britten’s librettist E.M. Forster put it in The Griffin in 1951, tidy up Vere’:........."

"The homoerotic sub-currents of both Melville’s novella and Forster’s libretto remain submerged in Warner’s production, and it is the opera’s religious allegory which is brought to the fore. There’s no doubting the answer to Vere’s desperate questions in the Prologue: “Who has blessed me? Who has saved me?” Just as Warner, in interview, described Claggart as a “fallen angel”, so this Billy is unambiguously seraph-like. Forster noted (in The Griffin) that some critics had surmised that Billy’s ‘almost feminine beauty’ and ‘the absence of sexual convulsion at his hanging’ indicate that Melville intended him as a ‘priest-like saviour’, but while he professed to have striven to emphasise Billy’s masculinity and ‘adolescent roughness’, Forster couldn’t resist portraying Billy’s hanging as a Christ-like sacrifice.

Read the full review here in Opera Today - seriously good analysis 

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