10-19 June 2005. Conducted by Jonathan Webb, directed by Willy Decker, with Dwayne Croft, Robert Brubaker, Samuel Ramey, Peter Savidge. First performed in 1951, with a libretto by E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier after Melvilles Billy Bud, Sailor, the work is remarkable for its all-male cast and for its atmospheric orchestration. It explores Brittens favourite theme of the corruption of innocence.
Taken from Herman Melvilles Billy Bud, sailor, it is a tale that concentrates on the eternal struggle between good and evil, exemplified by the relationship between Billy Budd, innocent victim, and John Claggart, violent and irrational hangman. It is a compact opera, which passes smoothly from one scene to another; musically it is strong and aggressive, thanks to a cast made of only men and also because of the use of trumpets and trombones, which give it an heroic character. Britten also introduces moments of relaxation, of an almost mystic peace, as when Billy is about to be hanged and accepts his own destiny with resignation, blessing his persecutor. Samuel Ramey (Claggart), the celebrated American bass, is making one of his sporadic appearances in Italy. Jonathan Webb, one of Englands leading conductors of contemporary music, is responsible for the orchestration. Paolo Di Nicola