[Met Performance] CID:307930

Billy Budd
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, April 4, 1992 Matinee Broadcast
Broadcast Matinee Broadcast

Debut : Andrew Stewart

Billy Budd (34)
Benjamin Britten | Eric Crozier/E. M. Forster
Billy Budd
Thomas Hampson

Captain Vere
Graham Clark

James Morris

Mr. Redburn
Alan Held

Mr. Flint
James Courtney

Mr. Ratcliffe
Julien Robbins

Gordon Hawkins

Bernard Fitch

John Macurdy

Anthony Laciura

Novice's Friend
Mark Oswald

Red Whiskers
John Horton Murray

Arthur Jones
Nico Castel

Morley Meredith

First Mate
Jeffrey Wells

Second Mate
Herbert Perry

Michael Forest

Sven Leaf

Gunner's Mate
Glenn Bater

Cabin Boy
Andrew Stewart [Debut]

Joel Evans

Peter Niles

Benjamin Schott

Joseph Silverman

Charles Mackerras

John Dexter

William Dudley

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Stage Director
Bruce Donnell

Billy Budd received five performances this season.
Rebroadcast on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio

Review 1:

Review of Tim Page in Newsday

Met Magic For 'Budd'

The Metropolitan Opera's production of Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd," created by the late John Dexter, has long been acclaimed one of the company's most satisfying. On Saturday afternoon, it returned to the repertory with a superb cast - Graham Clark, James Morris, and Thomas Hampson in the title role - and a conductor, Sir Charles Mackerras, who understands Britten's esthetic with rare acuity. For those who are moved by the opera (or those who have not yet seen it), a visit to the Met should be a priority.

Myself, I like the Met's production of "Billy Budd" more than I like "Billy Budd," and I found Saturday's performance entirely admirable and quite unmoving. I'm not sure "Billy Budd, Foretopman," Herman Melville's complex, discursive meditation on good and evil, was natural material for stage adaptation - it is, in its own way, as interior a work as "Under the Volcano" or "Ulysses" - and I don't find Britten's music particularly inspired.

Indeed, to this taste, the all-male voices make for a timbral sameness that grows wearisome over the opera's 2 1/2 hours, and there is a drab, gray quality to the score that can't all be explained away as musical "seascape." Moreover, the homoeroticism in the stage action - highly charged, determinedly suppressed and oh, so serious - calls to mind nothing so much as the old Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi as the captain of a sado-masochistic pirate ship. Sacrilege, of course, but there it is.

Still, what a magnificent, sympathetic production this remains; I don't think the cast could have been much bettered. Thomas Hampson is an ideal Billy Budd - he looks like the handsome sailor on the old cartons of Player's Navy Cut, acts convincingly and sings with lyricism and luster. Graham Clark vividly conveyed the fundamentally decent Captain Vere, adrift in a mist of moral ambiguity (if one cannot help but feel the choice Vere makes is dunderheaded in the extreme - and not very likely either, on any sort of human level - well, that's symbolism for you). Finally, James Morris was malevolence incarnate in the role of Claggart: he had but to walk onstage and the mood darkened. If there is a finer singing actor now before the public, he has not yet come to my attention. The worthy cast also included Morley Meredith, Anthony Laciura, John Horton Murray, Nico Castel and John Macurdy.

The Met orchestra plays very differently for Mackerras than for its music director, James Levine. Levine stresses an aggressive brilliance and virtuosity; Mackerras summons a united, unified reserve, entirely appropriate to the material at hand. Whatever one thinks of the opera itself, the Met surpasses itself with this "Billy Budd."

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