Britten's operas often focus on the way particular worlds deal with an outsider. The outsider in Billy Budd is a young man, press-ganged into naval service on the HMS Idomitable around 1797. His story is told in an opera-length flashback by the ship's captain, Edward Fairfax Vere, who is racked by guilt over Billy's fate. Billy's optimism, good-heartedness and trusting nature wins over all but the most venal of the downtrodden crew. He's keen for promotion, but his charisma and beauty cause the evil master-at-arms, John Claggart (who resembles Iago in Shakespeare's Othello), to plot his destruction. Billy's fatal flaw is that, under pressure, he suffers from a crippling stutter. When Claggart falsely accuses him of fomenting mutiny, in front of a sceptical Vere, Billy cannot find the words to defend himself and strikes Claggart dead. At the subsequent court-martial, Vere must follow the letter of the Articles of War and Billy is condemned to death. Typically, just before his execution, Billy cries out in praise of Vere. Now a very old man, Vere concludes that Billy's blessing has, in fact, saved him. Sung in English with supertitlesPerformers John Mark Ainsley (Captain Vere), Jacques Imbrailo (Billy Budd), 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 (The Novice), Colin Judson (Squeak), Richard Mosley-Evans (Bosun).
Author Britten. Producer Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Company London Philharmonic Orchestra. Company Glyndebourne Chorus. Conductor Mark Elder. Director Michael Grandage. Design Christopher Oram. Lighting Paule Constable. Director Tom Roden (movement).