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Opera The National Theatre

Billy Budd

Benjamin Britten

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Information

Musical preparation: Christopher Ward
Conductor: Christopher Ward
Stage director: Daniel Špinar
Sets: Lucia Škandíková
Costumes: Marek Cpin
Chorus master: Adolf Melichar
Choreography: Radim Vizváry
Dramaturgy: Jitka Slavíková

The State Opera Chorus and Orchestra

Billy Budd, by the British composer Benjamin Britten (1913–1976), is based on Herman Melville’s eponymous novel and tells the story of that which took place on board a British battleship during the Napoleonic Wars. Britten was fully aware of the destructive power of sexuality, afflicting both hetero- and homosexual individuals (most notably, he treated the subject in his opera Death in Venice). He was also a passionate pacifist, possessed a great sense of justice, and he personally resented violence, be it in war conflicts or committed on individuals. All these topics are afforded a significant role in the opera Billy Budd, in which a handsome, naïve and trustful youth becomes the object of hatred on the part of a sadistic manipulator, master-at-arms Claggart, who falsely accuses Billy of inciting the crew to mutiny. Billy inadvertently kills his torturer and is duly sentenced to death. Captain Vere faces an agonising decision: should he pardon the innocent boy, or should he abide by the law of war? He does not prevent the tragedy and the memory of his fateful failure will haunt him throughout his life.
Billy Budd is a purely masculine and, after Peter Grimes, the second “nautical” opera of Britten’s, in which the sea, the rocking of the waves and the gusts of wind are reflected in every single bar. The premiere performance, on 1 December 1951 at Covent Garden, was conducted by the composer himself. In 1960, Britten revised the score. The National Theatre will present the opera in Czech premiere, in the original version, made up of four Acts.

Cast

Billy Budd

Captain Vere

John Claggart

Redburn / First Mate

Complete Cast

Flint

Ratcliffe / Second Mate

Red Whiskers

Donald

A Novice

The Novice's Friend

Squeak

Bosun

Arthur Jones / Maintop