Vienna Opera Tickets

Vienna State Opera

I, € 264
II, € 210
III, € 168
IV, € 120
V, € 91

Billy Budd, Opera by B. Britten

Billy Budd, Opera by B. Britten

The Benjamin Britten opera, Billy Budd, is staged at the historic Vienna State Opera in a production that recreates the oppressive atmosphere on board a ship during the French Revolutionary Wars. With historically accurate costumes and deliberately concise stage scenery, the cramped conditions of naval warfare heighten the tension as dramatic themes of justice, love and salvation are played out.

Britten set the novel, Billy Budd, Sailor – written by Herman Melville – to music. Today, Melville is best known for his allegorical work, Moby Dick. Billy Budd, like Melville's most famous work, has a maritime setting with much of the action taking place on board the British warship HMS Indomitable. Set in 1797, the title character is a merchant seaman who has been recruited from a passing ship to serve in the British navy. The opera was first performed over four acts at London's Royal Opera House on 1st December 1951. However, Britten later went on to make substantial revisions and it premiered as a two-act opera with a prologue and an epilogue on 9 January 1964.

The novelist and essayist E. M. Forster had lectured about Melville's novel at Cambridge University and discussed collaborating with Britten on adapting it into an opera. In the end, Forster was not the only librettist to work on the text because an associate of Britten's, Eric Crozier, with whom he had previously worked also got involved with the adaptation.

The opening act sees Budd, along with some other seaman, being brought aboard the Indomitable. Budd is questioned by the warship's master-at-arms, Claggart, who soon expresses his frustrations about the officers on the ship. Although the ship's captain, Vere, performed by the great Peter Pears at the premiere, expresses some support for Budd, Claggart decides to try and provoke the young seaman.

In the second act, the action picks up with the sighting of an enemy vessel. Against this backdrop, Claggart informs Captain Vere that he thinks Budd is planning a mutiny. A fatal altercation ensues and the remainder of the opera focuses on the fallout from that. With themes of betrayal, revolution and warfare, Britten's version of Billy Budd brings to the fore many fundamental questions about the nature of good and evil, justice and injustice just as Melville's original work had done. Given the high quality of the performance at the Wiener Staatsoper, this production is sure to be thought-provoking and captivating in equal measure.

image Vienna State Opera / Julius Silver