Cher Public

Closet drama

“I have a confession to make about Britten’s opera Billy Budd: I don’t like it very much. I struggle with its listless pace; its largely flat characters; the way its libretto, by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier, prefers telling us what people are thinking rather than showing it.” That’s your London correspondent Zachary Woolfe in the New York Times.

  • derschatzgabber

    Wow, this discussion of Billy Budd has been a real gray matter tickler. I’ve enjoyed almost every post, whether I agree with it or not. This kind of discussion is what makes me hopelessly addicted to Parterre. I understand why many people don’t enjoy Britten. For years I listened to Britten “aus dem pflicht” as my German ancestors would put it. When I was young, if you were gay and into opera, you were expected to like Britten. In my quasi-closeted youth, “do you like Britten” was equivalent to asking “and after desert and coffee, what can I expect from you”. After years of dutiful listening, one day a switch was triggered in my brain and I heard things in Britten I had never imagined were there. Britten is now one of my favorite composers. But I get it if others don’t appreciate him, because I used to just endure him. P.S. I’m not just saying I love this discussion because my namesake opera gets mentioned a few times. : )

  • Byrnham Woode

    Morley Meredith spent much of his MET career as a cover singer, having spent his early time with the company in such roles as Onegin, the Hoffmann villains and the ARIADNE Major Domo (in English).

    He found his niche in supporting parts and as a cover artist, and would occasionally get a scheduled performance, which happened at least once each with Claggart and Telramund. When the MET first did TROYENS, he was Hector’s Ghost -- a very exposed one scene role.

  • Alto

    “Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur”

  • CarlottaBorromeo

    Just watched the final performance of Alden’s amazing production at ENO. The much-praised Grandage production at Glyndebourne seemed to me to ignore the sub-texts almost completely. Alden’s production on the other hand seems to be almost entirely about the sub-text -- and if ever an opera were about its subtext…

    A few moments -- Claggart’s obsessive sense of order exploding in the horrifying violence of his threat to the Novice -- yet even then ordered society remains in place “Will you, or will you not work for me” -- what an extraordinary locution at a moment of overwhelming psychological pressure! The officers in the court martial seeing the abyss opening beneath their feet. The Novice as a malevolent spirit. Claggart’s psychotic nature at “Do they think I’m deaf” exposed in the angle of Matthew Rose’s head. Vere already an old man reliving the horrors of the execution and the incipient mutiny.. I could go on but suffice to say Alden manages to explore the Manichaen heart of the work while never losing sight of its fundamental theatricality -- every chorus perfectly blocked to allow maximum vocal impact…

    Clearly not everybody here considers BB a masterpiece. For those that do then this production demands to be seen in its future incarnations in Berlin and Moscow.