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Billy Budd

Behind the Curtain #57: Billy Budd

James Conlon leads the LA Opera Orchestra and Chorus for one of Benjamin Britten's most strikingly theatrical and grandly scaled masterpieces.

Based on Herman Melville’s classic American tale, adapted into a libretto by English novelist E.M. Forster and writer Eric Crozier, Billy Budd tells the story of the persecution and destruction of a pure-hearted sailor by a predatory master-at-arms. It's a tragedy of "sexual discharge gone evil," as Forster described it, and a work that has captivated audiences around the world since its 1951 world premiere.

Leading the all-male cast, baritone Liam Bonner returns for his role debut as Billy, with tenor Richard Croft as Captain Vere. Bass Greer Grimsley makes his LA Opera debut as Claggart, the master-at-arms maddened by Billy’s goodness and beauty. A spectacular production by Francesca Zambello returns to our stage for the first time in 14 years.

Produced in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (London) and the Paris Opera. This production was first seen at Covent Garden on May 30, 1995. 

Production made possible by generous funding provided from the National Endowment for the Arts and Britten-Pears Foundation.

LA Opera: February 10, 2014

In this edition of LA Opera's Behind the Curtain podcast, Brian Lauritzen talks to Liam Bonner, who is performing the title role in Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd," a role debut for the baritone. They discuss how he prepares an operatic role for the first time, the musical and physical demands of the role of Billy, and what makes Britten a particularly great opera composer.