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The Stars of the White Nights 2020
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Opera Billy Budd (opera in two acts) by Benjamin Britten
Mikhailovsky Classical Ballet and Opera Theatre (established 1833)

The performance has 1 intermission

Schedule for Billy Budd (opera in two acts) by Benjamin Britten 2020

Composer: Benjamin Britten
Musical Director: Mikhail Tatarnikov

Orchestra: Mikhailovsky Symphony Orchestra

Opera in 2 act

Billy Budd is an opera by Benjamin Britten from a libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier, based on the short novel Billy Budd by Herman Melville. It was first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 1 December 1951.
It premiered in the United States in 1952 in a production by the Indiana University Opera Company, and has become part of the repertory of the New York Metropolitan Opera.

Libretto: E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier
Stage Director: Willy Decker
Stage Design: Wolfgang Gussmann
Director of the revival: Sabine Hartmannschenn
Music Director: Mikhail Tatarnikov

The production of Wiener Staatsoper, Gmbh, 2001
Sets and Costumes produced by ART for ART Theaterservice, Gmbh, Vienna

Billy Budd is performed at the Mikhailovsky Theatre by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Limited, London

Billy Budd will be presented in Russia for the first time. The opera is one of the most important works in the musical legacy of Benjamin Britten, whose centenary will be celebrated in 2013.

The libretto is based on Herman Melville’s novella about events on board HMS Bellipotent. There are 20 characters in the opera, all of them men. In the stifling atmosphere of the ship and the strict regulations of this ‘male’ world, there is an increasing sense of unease which suddenly explodes into a thunderous drama. The sailor Billy Budd is a favourite with the crew; Claggart, the ship’s Master-at-Arms, cultivates feelings for the simple-hearted youth that frighten him. Powerless to cope with these feelings, he incites the young sailor to take part in a mutiny and, when Billy refuses, Claggart slanders him. This anxiety makes Billy stammer; unable to speak out and plead his innocence, he strikes Claggart in fury, a blow which turns out to be fatal. Captain Vere has no choice but to sentence the sailor to hang, even though the decision brings him great moral suffering. The crew wants to free Billy by force, but the young sailor is convinced that the captain should be forgiven, and the mutiny subsides.

In presenting Britten’s opera to the Russian public, the Mikhailovsky Theatre is recreating the Vienna State Opera’s production of 2001.


Captain Edward Fairfax Vere, an old man, reflects on his life and his time in the navy. He reflects on the conflict between good and evil, he is tormented by guilt over the case of Billy Budd on board his ship, HMS Indomitable, some years earlier.
Act 1
The crew of the Indomitable works on deck. For slipping and bumping into an officer, the Novice is sentenced to be flogged. At the same time a cutter approaches, returning from a merchant ship where it has pressed three sailors into England's Navy.
One of these sailors, Billy Budd, seems overjoyed with his situation - entirely different from the other two who are not so happy. Claggart, the Master-at-Arms, calls him "a find in a thousand," despite the slight defect of a stammer. Billy says a jaunty farewell to the Rights o' Man, his former ship, innocent of what his words imply. The officers take his words as a deliberate provocation and order the men below decks. Claggart tells Squeak, the ship's corporal, to keep an eye on Billy and give him a rough time.
The Novice returns from his flogging, unable to walk and helped along by a friend. Billy is shocked at the cruelty of the punishment, but is certain that if he follows the rules he will be in no danger. Dansker, an old sailor, nicknames Billy "Baby Budd" for his innocence.
At this point in the four-act version came the climax of Act I, in which Captain Vere appeared on deck to give a speech to the men. In the two-act version, Dansker simply tells the others Vere's nickname, "Starry Vere," and this is enough for the impulsive Billy to swear his loyalty to the unseen captain.
In his cabin, Captain Vere muses over classical literature. His officers enter, and they discuss the revolution in France and the mutinies in the British Navy sparked by French ideas of democracy. The officers warn that Billy may cause trouble, but Vere dismisses their fears and expresses his love for the men under his command.
Below decks the sailors rough-house, but old Dansker remains gloomy. Billy goes for some tobacco to cheer him up, and discovers Squeak rifling through his kit. In a rage, Billy begins to stammer. He knocks Squeak to the ground as Claggart and the corporals enter. Billy is still unable to speak, but Claggart takes his side and sends Squeak to the brig. However, when alone, Claggart reveals his hatred for Billy and vows to destroy him. He orders the Novice to try to bribe Billy into joining a mutiny, and the broken-spirited Novice quickly agrees. Billy refuses the bribe and believes he will be rewarded, but Dansker warns him to beware of Claggart.
Act 2
Claggart begins to tell Vere about the danger that Billy represents, but is interrupted by the sighting of a French ship. The Indomitable attacks, but loses the enemy in the mist. Claggart returns, and tells Vere that Billy poses a threat of mutiny. Vere does not believe him and sends for Billy so that Claggart may confront him.
Later, in Vere's cabin, Claggart repeats the false charge to Billy's face. Once again, Billy begins to stammer in rage. Unable to speak, he strikes Claggart, killing him. The Captain is forced to convene an immediate court-martial, and the officers find Billy guilty and sentence him to hang. Billy begs Vere to save him, and the officers appeal to him for guidance, but Vere remains silent and accepts their verdict. He goes into the cabin where Billy is being held, and the orchestra suggests a tender offstage meeting as the captain informs Billy of the death sentence. This was the end of Act 3 in the four-act version.
Billy prepares for his execution in his cell. Dansker brings him a drink and reveals that the crew is willing to mutiny for his sake, but Billy is resigned to his fate. Four o'clock that morning, the crew assembles on deck, and Billy is brought out. The Articles of War are read, and show that Billy must be hanged. Just before his execution, he praises Vere with his final words, singing "Starry Vere, God Bless you!" echoed by the rest of the crew.
Vere, as an old man, remembers Billy's burial at sea, reflecting that the man he failed to save has instead blessed and saved him. As he recalls Billy's blessing, he realises he has discovered genuine goodness and can be at peace with himself.

Schedule for Billy Budd (opera in two acts) by Benjamin Britten 2020

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