Review: Billy Budd At Royal Opera House
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Britten’s second best-known opera is given a new lease of life by Deborah Warner in this classy and sombre outing. Billy Budd’s angular, spacious sounds have stood up to time well — and with the crisp diction and energetic delivery of the leads, it feels contemporary.
Jacques Imbrailo is an experienced Billy, and Toby Spence a handsome, deeply flawed Starry Vere. Special mention to Clive Bayley’s loyal basso profundo Dansker, comforting the doomed youth near the end. It’s 20 years since the Royal Opera last did Billy, and the stage spaces, with their echoing grey lighting, create a supernatural doom that underscores the banal malevolence embodied by Brindley Sherratt’s unpleasant Claggart (who gets some great lines though).
There’s precious little rum or sodomy, but plenty of lashes if you like that sort of thing, and at the present time any metaphors about a ship of fools will find a ready audience. A limited run that’s worth embarking for, were it not already sailing away.
Billy Budd, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD. Sold out but check for returns on performance days, 29 April, 7 and 10 May only.
Last Updated 24 April 2019