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Britten: Billy Budd / Elder/LPO, Ainsley, Imbrailo, Ens [2 DVD]

Album Summary

>Britten, Benjamin : Billy Budd, Op. 50
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Set on a British man-'o-war ship with an all-male cast, Billy Budd tells the story of pure good versus blind evil. The Herman Melville novel is brought to life through co-writer EM Forster and art director, Michael Grandage. Special features on this 2 disc set include 'Introducing Billy Budd' and 'Designs on Billy Bud'.

"None of the camera’s interventions disturb the sweep of Michael Grandage’s carefully realistic production...you’re still sucked inside the drama, especially if you watch on a widescreen TV...[Imbrailo] is as ardent and puppyish as you could wish...the London Philharmonic revel in the baleful drums, salty woodwinds, and dark beauty of Britten’s score. On DVD as much as in the opera house, this is a Billy Budd to remember." -The Times

"[Elder paces] the developing tragedy with airily lyrical detail and brooding, ominous power. John Mark Ainsley' s plangent, dark-toned tenor and intense diction show us a more neurotic Vere than usual, ridden with doubts and anxieties...Phillip Ens's Claggart maintains a chilly calm, sadistic philosopher rather than snarling bully...[Imbrailo's Billy] is no plaster saint but gauche, hyperactive and open-hearted...this is the most compelling Billy Budd on video." -BBC Music Magazine

"Truly, we live in a golden age of great opera recordings where a performance of Britain’s masterpiece -- perhaps his greatest operatic achievement outside Peter Grimes -- can be set down in an edition as exemplary as this. Singing, staging and recording are all non-pareil." -London24.com

"Elder's unerring sense of theatre puts him absolutely at one with the stage in every episode. He's clearly the guiding spirit of this Billy Budd. The production has been directed with laudable unobtrusiveness by Michael Grandage. Everything is executed with the utmost sensitivity, and there are some telling original touches...Video director Francois Rousillon does exceptional work here, with the precision of HD a constant pleasure. Opus Arte's recorded sound is superb." -International Record Review

"Jacques Imbrailo fields just the right youthful lyric baritone and sings Billy's solo below decks beautifully. John Mark Ainsley gets to the heart of Vere, every close-up showing an artist immersed in his role, and Phillip Ens sings gravely as a Claggart who seems sadly resigned to his lot, rather than an active force of destruction." -Gramophone

"The realisation of the decks of a man-o’-war seem even more claustrophobic than it was at Glyndebourne. The casting is immaculate, the choral singing is overpowering, and you can almost feel the salt spray flying off Mark Elder’s magnificent conducting." -The Daily Telegraph

there is a musical clarity and balance to the overall texture... and this production of it must be the best ever.

Daily Telegraph (UK)
Michael Grandage's staging of Britten's Billy Budd is ... successful ...

MusicWeb International
I said in June that this was the best opera DVD of the year so far. I'm now certain that Glyndebourne's Billy Budd is the best opera DVD of the whole year. Outstanding in every way.

Opera News
Jacques Imbrailo... command[s] the stage... with an unfailing good humor and friendliness that make plausible everyone's certainty of Billy's "goodness." His medium-weight baritone proves just right for the challenging music... the large cast is filled with strong voices and individual presences. The production also makes a splendid showcase for the men of the Glyndebourne Chorus (chorus master Jeremy Bines) and for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Mark Elder secures razor-sharp execution, transparent textures, overwhelming massed impact and thrilling realization of Britten's nonstop coloristic invention.

American Record Guide
Rarely has there been such depth, such richness of insight in an operatic staging. The acting is intense, realistic, fully, painfully human. The musical performance is also a fine one. Each singer is fully integrated into the production and fully aware of his emotions, giving his very best in a most heart-felt manner. Clarity and intelligence inform the tragic beauty of Ainsley's singing.

Art Times
The cast is a strong one, especially with the three major characters whose triad shapes the work as a whole. There is the highly educated and moral Captain Vere (truth) of the HMS Indomitable (John Mark Ainsley), who first appears as an old man recalling the incident that changed his life. There is Master-at-Arms Claggart (Phillip Ens), whose hatred of Billy is explained in the quotation that starts this essay. Ens is a small man, who can dominate the stage vocally. His monologue explaining his hatred of Budd bears comparison with Iago's "Credo" aria in Verdi's "Otello."

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 200 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.0 Surround
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish


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Works Details

>Britten, Benjamin : Billy Budd, Op. 50
  • Performers: Jeremy White (Bass); Matthew Rose (Bass); Iain Paterson (Baritone); Richard Mosley-Evans (Bass); John Moore (Baritone); Colin Judson (Tenor); Ben Johnson (Tenor); Darren Jeffery (Bass-Baritone); Jacques Imbrailo (Baritone); Phillip Ens (Bass); Alasdair Elliott (Tenor); John Ainsley (Tenor)
  • Conductor: Mark Elder
  • Ensemble: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1951