‹ Back to What's On Billy Budd

1 - 3 Dec 2016

A brand new staging of this oceanic and intense psychological drama performed by a cast of today's leading Britten interpreters.

Discover the dramatic tale of Billy Budd, a young sailor who radiates beauty and goodness, and the failure of Captain Vere to save him from the destructive forces of envy. Embark on a powerful psychological journey of one man’s inner turmoil as the past comes back to haunt him.

With its evocative music, stellar cast and stunning set, Opera North’s new production of one of Britten’s greatest operas promises an unforgettable experience.

​A co-production with Nederlandse Reisopera.

Running Time

Approximately 3 hours

Language

Sung in English with no titles

Audience Reaction Trailer

Cast
  • Captain Vere Alan Oke
  • Billy Budd Roderick Williams
  • John Claggart Alastair Miles
  • Mr Redburn Peter Savidge
  • Mr Flint Adrian Clarke
  • Lieutenant Ratcliffe Callum Thorpe
  • Red Whiskers Daniel Norman
  • Donald Eddie Wade
  • Dansker Stephen Richardson
  • Novice Oliver Johnston
  • Novice's Friend Gavan Ring
  • Squeak David Llewellyn
  • Bosun Jeremy Peaker
  • First Mate Paul Gibson
  • Second Mate Nicholas Butterfield
  • Maintop Aled Hall
  • Arthur Jones Tim Ochala-Greenough
  • Children Cormac Keating, James Slingsby, Jakub Packo, Daniel Simpson, Lucas Walker
Creative Team
  • Conductor Garry Walker
  • Director Orpha Phelan
  • Set & Costume Designer Leslie Travers
  • Lighting Designer Thomas C. Hase
  • Movement Director Lynne Hockney

Click on the venue below to plan your visit.

Edinburgh

Find Us

3/29 Nicolson Street
Edinburgh
EH8 9FT

Important Information

On Foot:

(From Princes Street) The Festival Theatre is on Nicolson Street, which is the continuation of North Bridge heading south from the east end of Princes Street (the Balmoral Hotel is on the corner of Princes Street and North Bridge). The theatre is on the right hand side of the road; approximately 10 minutes walk from the east end of Princes Street.

By Rail:

The nearest rail station to the Festival Theatre is Waverley Station.

By Bus:

The Festival Theatre is accessible by many different bus routes across the city. The main Lothian bus routes which serve the Festival Theatre are: numbers 2, 3, 3A, 5, 7, 8, 14, 21, 29, 31, 33, 37, 37A, 42 and 49.

By Road:

The Festival Theatre is on Nicolson Street, which is the continuation of North Bridge heading south from Princes Street. There are on-going roadworks in preparation for the introduction of trams, so for up to date information please checkwww.edinburgh.gov.uk/internet/Transport or AA Route Planner

Car Parking:

There is limited street parking around the Festival Theatre. There is small car park located about 5 minutes walk from the theatre on Niddry Street (7.00am - 11.00pm, 7 days). For further car park information visit Central Car Parks

What you say

Comment from Nellie Irving

No-profile-image

Nellie Irving said ago

Absolutely brilliant!

Comment from michael knapp

No-profile-image

michael knapp said ago

Overall an excellent performance but marred by the absence of surtitles. The libretto is crucial and every word needs to be heard (or seen) and there are many times when voices are indistinct.
It was unfortunate that the moment when Billy strikes and kills Claggart brought a laugh from the audience - needed much tighter direction here, and Claggart should have conveyed a much more evil presence through the opera for the significance of this moment to be felt.

Comment from John Corrie

No-profile-image

John Corrie said ago

With one or two tweaks, this would have been superlative rather than just very good. Claggart should have looked much more evil - indeed only his Act 1 comment of "Let him crawl" after the novice's flogging brought out the hideousness of his character. I also think Billy could have looked younger, perhaps by removing the sideburns.

Despite these minor comments, Alan Oke was excellent and Roderick Williams soliloquy on the night before Billy's hanging was heartbreakingly moving. Overall, this was a credit to Opera North and I am very grateful for the opportunity to see a live performance. The opera deserves to be more widely performed.

Comment from Helen Seymour

No-profile-image

Helen Seymour said ago

Marvellous. I saw the production 25? years ago and it stayed with me. This was even better. Wonderful singing and the staging captured the closed and claustrophobic world of the ship.

Comment from Vanessa Lindsay Smith

No-profile-image

Vanessa Lindsay Smith said ago

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening with some powerful moments and great singing. The music is wonderful and the chorus's interpretation was particularly fine. But I agree with other comments. Although the diction was mostly excellent, surtitles would have helped those of us whose hearing is not what it was at crucial moments. I have made this comment for a previous Britten opera but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears (ha ha!). The set was rather strange. and I was disapointed by the fudged hanging which destroyed the poignancy of this moment. That said, it was a polished performance from a strong cast. Thank you.

Comment from John Carlisle

No-profile-image

John Carlisle said ago

An enthralling evening. The singers were SO good and I swear I could hear Peter Pears out there at times. What struck me most was the orchestration, just how important a role the orchestra had in creating the opera and not just supporting the singers.
As my wife and I are both over 70, titles would really have helped.

Comment from Alastair Davidson

No-profile-image

Alastair Davidson said ago

The production as a whole was excellent with strong voices(if rather wooden acting) and the orchestra coping marvellously with the difficult score particularly with intonation and timing. I have seen the comments about the stage being partially obscured for those higher up in the theatre(the cheap seats) and the technical crew needs to send a man up there to experience it.
Once again the use(ie lack) of surtitles has been mentioned but Opera North is not listening either to the audience or the singers to hear how difficult it is to understand the libretto. Britten would be disappointed to know that the skill of his collaborators is not being appreciated.
Glad to see that this is being sorted for the Spring productions.

Comment from Stephen

No-profile-image

Stephen said ago

A wonderful achievement by the whole company, especially the chorus, doing full justice to this masterwork. We saw the full range from big dramatic climax through to intimate personal dilemmas. We disagreed a bit about the portrayal of Claggart - he was perhaps not frightening enough as the whole ship including Vere should be in visible terror of him we think. But a very satisfying evening - opera just as it should be.

Comment from Keith McDermott

No-profile-image

Keith McDermott said ago

Thoroughly enjoyed the performance, staging and orchestra plus the cast.
At 77 I don't hear too well so even though the performance was in English, surtitles would be welcome and you must have many foreigners in the audience who would equally welcome assistance (e.g. some of the racy 6/8 narratives were too quick for me to grasp.

Comment from Opera North

No-profile-image

Opera North said ago

Many thanks for all comments which have been passed on to the programming team.

Opera North provides surtitles for all operas sung in a language other than English. In general, we don’t title works that were originally written in English.

We frequently title works that are translated and sung in English, in operas where we believe that this will be especially beneficial to the audience. So, for example, next season, both The Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel, which are sung in English, will also have English titles. These decisions are something that we give a great deal of thought to each time.

We are grateful for all feedback regarding this and we will continue to assess the need for titles in future productions. We hope that you enjoyed the performance overall and look forward to welcoming you again soon.

Comment from Christopher Fogg

No-profile-image

Christopher Fogg said ago

I thought it was excellent - and at times truly stunning in it's power of investigating human feelings. The most powerful moments for me were when there was an isolated stationary figure alone in the light on the stage and we were left with only the music to show what was happening in the mind of the character on stage - and therefore also in us - the audience. Wonderful.
Thank you - to you all.

Comment from Chris Wood

No-profile-image

Chris Wood said ago

Wonderful singing and effective set but please lose the partition that keeps going up and down. From the balcony it obscures the cast standing on the top deck.

Opera North response:

Dear Chris,

Thanks for your comments, which we have passed on to our technical team. We do take care to ensure that sight lines aren’t restricted by the production and we are sorry if this wasn’t the case for you. With this particular moment, the performers stand as far forward as possible to avoid any restriction by the wall, and the wall is only in that position for a very brief time. We hope that this didn’t spoil your enjoyment of the evening as a whole.

Comment from Nicholas Dobson

No-profile-image

Nicholas Dobson said ago

Fantastic! Riveting theatrical, operatic and dramatic performances all round!

However, although I know purists object I would have welcomed surtitles despite the English libretto. People who don't like surtitles don't of course need to look. However, surtitles are very useful for those like me who want to catch the details and nuances, particularly with a libretto from an accomplished writer like Forster.

Comment from Bob Langton

No-profile-image

Bob Langton said ago

We enjoyed last night's performance, but perhaps not as much as I, at least, had hoped. There were great strengths to it - the singing was uniformly good or better, and the orchestra its normal magnicient self. It was though, noticeable that at the end the biggest cheer came for the orchestra rather than the singers, despite their quality.

I'd put that down to two aspects of the production - one more important than the other. The less was some rather fussy aspects of the staging - the worst being the attempt to use the mot-eaten panelling of Vere's house in 'clever' ways to suggest the motion of the ship (I think!) One consequence was that at times people higher in the theatre could not see the quarterdeck and it's might irritating.

More serious was the absence of surtitles. Billy Budd depends to a greate extent on the words, and many key aspects of these escaped all of my party. Why were they not used?

When we came to the wonderful Ring Cycle in May I sat for three evenings in the circle, but for complex reasons ended up seeing Gotterdamerung from the front row of the stalls: one consequence was that many of the surtitles were obscured by the singers, but this mattered less than it might have because, that close, I could hear the words well enough for even my rudimentary German to mainly cope with. It's very different further back and surtitles make an immense difference even in operas sung in English.

Comment from Nigel Hunt

No-profile-image

Nigel Hunt said ago

Disappointing. The set which looked good hindered movement giving a very static production. The orchestra and chorus were both good, but Claggart and Budd were underwhelming in their roles, Budd in particular showing little characterisation or individuality. The front curtain when raised into certain positions hindered views of cast in the top deck. The opera does however bring to the fore that bullying in the armed services has always been there and remains to this day evidenced in what seems to be happening in some armed forces barracks.

Opera North response:

Dear Nigel,

Thanks for your comments, which we have passed on to our technical team. We do take care to ensure that sight lines aren’t restricted by the production and we are sorry if this wasn’t the case for you. With this particular moment, the performers stand as far forward as possible to avoid any restriction by the wall, and the wall is only in that position for a very brief time. We hope that this didn’t spoil your enjoyment of the evening as a whole.

Comment from john scully

No-profile-image

john scully said ago

A splendid production marred for me sitting in the front row of the dress circle is that I could not hear every word. I think subtitles would be used for every opera even those sung in English.

Comment from Pat

No-profile-image

Pat said ago

Fabulous, thrilling and grim all at once: the only let down was the pivotal moment when Billy kills Claggart, very exposed and somehow mistimed.

Comment from Nicholas Clews

No-profile-image

Nicholas Clews said ago

Extraordinary evocative orchestration and a welcome antidote to the growing "Help for Heroes" political consensus!

Leave a comment

Cast and Creative Team

CAST

Captain Vere Alan Oke
Billy Budd Roderick Williams
Alastair Miles
John Claggart
 
Mr Redburn Peter Savidge
Mr Flint Adrian Clarke
Lieutenant Ratcliffe Callum Thorpe
Red Whiskers Daniel Norman
Donald Eddie Wade
Dansker Stephen Richardson
Novice Oliver Johnston
Novice's Friend Gavan Ring
Squeak David Llewellyn
Bosun Jeremy Peaker
First Mate Paul Gibson
Second Mate Nicholas Butterfield
Maintop Aled Hall
Arthur Jones Tim Ochala-Greenough
Children Cormac Keating
James Slingsby
Jakub Packo
Daniel Simpson
Lucas Walker

CREATIVE TEAM

Conductor Garry Walker
Director Orpha Phelan
Set and Costume Designer Leslie Travers
Lighting Designer Thomas C. Hase
Movement Director Lynne Hockney

Your Visit

  

Newsletter Sign up