- Title: Britten's opera "Billy Budd" premieres on Russia's Bolshoi stage
- Date: 25th November 2016
- Summary: STAGE DIRECTOR, DAVID ALDEN, SPEAKING TO MEDIA (SOUNDBITE) (English) STAGE DIRECTOR, DAVID ALDEN, SAYING: "Well this opera is Billy Budd and its based on the novel by (Herman) Melville, which has a historical story. It takes place on the British naval ship of war in the 18th century, it is supposed to be. And that is how the opera was originally presented, with historical costumes, the white wigs. But, I have cut all that away, because I think that the story that Benjamin Britten was really telling is timeless."
- Embargoed: 9th December 2016 08:00
- Keywords: Benjamin Britten opera Billy Budd Bolshoi theatre Russia
- Location: MOSCOW, RUSSIA
- City: MOSCOW, RUSSIA
- Country: Russia
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment,Music,Theater
- Reuters ID: LVA00359XZNT9
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Russia's Bolshoi theatre is set to premiere Benjamin Britten's opera 'Billy Budd' on Friday (November 25) as staged by director David Alden.
The opera, based on the final novel of the same name by Herman Melville, about an innocent, naive seaman in the British Navy in 1797, has been co-produced with the English National Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin.
The gloomy story is an intense psychological drama about young sailor, Billy Budd - sung by Iurii Samoilov, who garners the jealous attention of the master-at-arms in the ship John Claggart, sung by Gidon Saks. Billy Budd causes the death of Claggart after the master-at-arms accuses the popular crew member of treason.
Captain Vere, who feels pity for Billy, fails to save the young man's life who according to maritime law is to be executed for killing an officer.
"One could maybe say it's ultimately a pessimistic, dark view of human nature, but it is so full of passion and love and beautiful, touching music. It is the music, it is Britten's music which lifts this fairly tragic and dark story up into something that is actually joyous," stage director David Alden told reporters on Wednesday (November 23).
Billy Budd had its first production at London's Royal Opera House in 1951. Benjamin Britten himself conducted the premiere which garnered a standing ovations from the audience.
Captain Vere was originally sung by the legendary tenor and Britten's partner Peter Pears. In 1966 the score was shortened from four acts to two when the opera was prepared for television broadcast.
The Bolshoi's staging is performing the two act version of the opera.
Oper Frankfurt soloist Iurii Samoilov, who has performed as a soloist at Opera Studio in Kiev, playing the title role in Eugen Onegin among other operas, says this opera stretched his skills in a new way.
"I had to perform some acrobatic stunts, which you will see in the first act of this performance, for the first time. With the help of assistants I am standing on people's shoulders, they are rotating me in the air. Then we have a fighting scene which we practised with the help of stage combat instructors," Samoilov told reporters at the final dress rehearsal of the opera.
Billy Budd will not be British conductor William Lacey's first work taking place at the Bolshoi Theatre. In 2015 Lacey was a member of the production team for Le Nozze di Figaro, which he conducted several times.
Well-known British-born tenor, John Daszak, who is a recognised interpreter of Britten's music, will sing Captain Vere. Daszak made his Bolshoi Theatre debut this year when he sang the part of Sergei in Dmitri Shostakovich's opera Katerina Izmailova in February.
The premiere series of performances are on the 25th, 27th, 29th of November and the 1st of December.
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