Billy Budd at the Bolshoi theatre

Billy Budd is based on a first class literary source – an unfinished story, Billy Budd, Foretopman by the American author Herman Melville, dated 1891. A very gloomy tale, based on real-life events, it is a powerful study in conflicting demands of justice, duty, passion and, in particular, of the consequences of jealousy. Billy Budd had its first production at London’s Royal Opera House on lst December 1951. Benjamin Britten himself conducted the première which got standing ovations. Captain Vere was sung by the legendary tenor and Britten’s partner Peter Pears. In 1966, when preparing the opera for television broadcast, the composer cut the score from four acts to two. And it is in the latter version that the opera is most often performed today.

BB-1-william-leicy-david-olden.jpg
William Lacey, David Alden.

Russian music lovers had to wait for the centenary of Britten’s birth to hear it. Billy Budd’s Russian premiere was in 2013 at St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre where Willy Decker mounted the production he had done for Vienna Opera in 2001.

And it was as part of the centenary celebrations that the English National Opera did its 2012 production which, in 2014, transferred to Deutsche productions, which is led by the eminent director David Alden. (Before Billy Budd Alden mounted Peter Grimes for the ENO which also later transferred to Deutsche Oper).

The marvelous English conductor William Lacey is not a newcomer to the Bolshoi Theatre: he was a member of the production team for the Bolshoi’s 2015 Le Nozze di Figaro which he conducted several times. And he is known to Moscow music lovers as a Britten interpreter: together with Christopher Alden, David Alden’s twin brother, who is also an opera producer, he took part in the K.S. Stanislavsky and Vl. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre’s production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the latter première was also the result of cooperation with the ENO).