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Britten: Billy Budd

Kent Nagano Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 36.05
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Product details

  • Performer: Thomas Hampson, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Eric Halfvarson, Russell Smythe
  • Orchestra: Manchester Boys' Choir, Northern Voices
  • Conductor: Kent Nagano
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (23 Feb 1998)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Erato
  • ASIN: B000006CS4
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 182,816 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Prologue
2. Pull, my bantams
3. Send for John Claggart
4. Billy Budd, king of the birds!
5. I heard, your honour!
6. Come along, kid!
7. Christ, the poor chap, the poor little runt!
8. Vere! Vere! - Officers and men...
9. My compliments...
10. Don't like the French!
See all 18 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. I dont't like the look of the mist
2. Deck ohoy!
3. All guns ready, Sir!
4. there are you again, Master-at-Arms
5. Nay, nay, you're mistaken
6. Claggart, John claggart, beware!
7. You wanted to see me
8. God o mercy!
9. Interlude 'William Budd, you are accused'
10. Poor fellow, who could save him?
See all 16 tracks on this disc

Product Description

Amazon.co.uk

Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd", based on Melville's story, is the second-best opera about life on the sea since Wagner's "Flying Dutchman"--the best being Britten's "Peter Grimes". It is one of the 20th Century's most tragic operas and the only important opera with an all-male cast. Its music evokes the ocean: the winds and waves, the sailors' songs, and the harsh realities of a seaman's life on a British 18th-century man-of-war. It climaxes in a deadly confrontation between pure good, embodied in the young sailor Billy Budd (Hampson), and pure evil in the sadistic master at arms, John Claggart (Halfvarson). Composed in 1951, it was shortened to the now standard two acts by Britten for a broadcast in 1960. This brilliant first recording of the original four-act version shows that much was lost in the revision. --Joe McLellan

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, amazing, beautiful! 10 Feb 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
I consider this recording the prize of my opera collection. Billy Budd is an amazing, moving, beautiful opera that leaves the listener unconsciously holding his breath at the end. Britten's music never ceases to amaze me, and this is my personal favorite of all his works. This recording is excellent in every way - the three star performers especially are perfect for their roles. Hampson sounds young, charming, handsome and joyful as Billy; he has a beautiful voice and skilled understanding of the music, text and character. Halfvarson is an amazingly evil, powerful, captivating Claggart. Rolfe Johnson sings Capt. Vere with a sensitivity that captures the listener's own emotions - when the orchestra finishes playing, we are left with him alone, the "sole earthly witness" and survivor. I can't say enough about this recording, or this wonderful opera!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Billy Budd 27 Oct 2010
By Pia
Format:Audio CD
I first saw this opera in full this summer when I watched the film of the new Glynebourne production. I have always loved parts of the opera, but the film was the first time I have seen it in full. I was so taken with the music that I had to buy a copy. As always with Amazon there is a huge choice. Thomas Hampson is my favorite baritone, so when I saw this particular version advertised I had to have it. I have not exactly worn out the CD as I have downloaded it to my computer, but if it had been a vinyl, it would already have been showing serious wear. It is a beautiful version of the opera and Hampson as Billy is incredible, as he always is. I strongly recommend this version to any lover of Britten and Hampson.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Budd 12 Dec 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
There are several recordings of Billy Budd, including one conducted by the composer. This one however must be a must for Britten enthusiasts . Thomas Hampson has a naturally beautiful voice which makes the character even more sympathetic than usual, and the sadly departed Anthony Rolfe Johnson a superb Vere. The conducting and sound are superb. Recomended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting live performance, in great sound 27 Oct 2005
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The British prefer Britten operas not to be overly exciting, and even the composer's classic Decca recording of Billy Budd is much less dynamic than the premiere performance from 1951, which can still be heard in serviceable pirated mono (VAI). Kent Nagaon changed all that with this riveting live performance from 1997 with the Halle Orchestra, playing as if their lives depended on it. The full oppression and buried anger of the sailors is caught from the very first and builds with tremendous force to the moment when they witness, through frightening wordless agony, the hanging of Billy Budd.

Nagano conducts the original 4-act version, but his tempos are vigorous enough to capture the whole opera on 2 CDs (other recordings, even of the revised 2-act version, take three). Abetted by sonics that are super-charged with vitality, Nagaono papers over the stretches of less-than-compelling music that crop up, and he uses ever-shifting orchestral color to enliven the potential monotony of an all-male opera.

Of the leads, Rolfe-Johnson stands out for his haunted, emotionallly driven Vere, the best reading in dramatic terms since Pears premiered the role. Hampson doesn't sound as young as Simon Keenlyside on the Hickox set, or as charmistmatic and innocent as Thomas Uppmann at the premiere, but he is a great interpreter of this role, once you accept that he often sounds more like Thomas Hampson than a gang-pressed British sailor. Halfverson sings a dark Claggart with plenty of ocnviction, but there is wobble in his voice, and it clouds his diciton. The minor roles are sung very well; the chorus is the best on ecords.

Altogether, this is a riveting musical experience, and it should convert many American listeners to one of the masterpieces of opera in English, a work fully the equal and in some ways the superior to Peter Grimes, which is much better known in this country.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breath-taking 26 Nov 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is not only a magnificent opera; on this recording, it's a manificent-SOUNDING opera. The aural quality on these two discs is clear and crisp, putting the listener in the thick of it immediately. All of the performances are first-rate; Thomas Hampson strikes a fine balance between tragedy and bravery as Billy and his duets with Richard Van Allen (playing Dansker, Billy's shipmate and friend) are especially powerful. But the finest of the performances is unquestionably Anthony Rolfe Johnson's as Captain Vere; he's given a great role and he makes the most of it, showing all of the captain's anguish at the choices he knows he must make. This full version of the opera is the one to get and sets a high standard for future recordings.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Opera, Great performance ,Splendid Sound Quality 6 Aug 2003
By Thomas R. Hanson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
My own bias: Melville lover. This is the only 20th century opera in English I've ever found really emotionally involving as a drama. It's a unique blend of 20th century sensibility and 20th century style with, somehow a 19th century flavor. Note how Billy's Act IV moonlight reflections on his execution set for the dawn is set to the same gentle rocking figure that Berlioz used for Hylas' lonely song in Les Troyens. I wonder whether it is even possible that Britten in 1950 could have known that Berlioz piece. The libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier is a wonderful humanizing of Melville's hard crystalline cerebral story of a good man confronting fathomless evil, and "having" to abet the evil by killing a purely good man for the "greater good" of his ship and country. They manage to get across a great deal of the complexity of Melville's short novel while adding opportunities for warmth and humor. And manage to make a slightly fatuous "Captain Vere has become a good man due to his contact with Billy" ending a reasonably acceptable conclusion even to someone like me who would prefer to leave the tale as Melville did, without that comforting thought.
Britten takes full advantage of every opportunity Forster and Crozier give him, setting scenes that move like good drama, with sweep and pace, and creates an unforgettable ending with the brass writing for Billy's hanging somehow dangling and twisting in the air with his body (never seen in either of the two productions I've seen) No need. Britten is both eyes and ears here.
I've never seen this 4-act version, just the 2-act revision
usually staged. Much was lost in the cutting. This recording is in really magnificent full throated sound with a very strong cast singing wonderfully and Kent Nagano never missing an opportunity for meaningfull phrasing. He instills, improbably but beautifully, a delicacy which is a perfect counterbalance to the vastness of the story and the orchestral force involved. I can see that i've gushed here. This recording deserves it. One of the treasures of my collection.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect, amazing, beautiful! 10 Feb 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I consider this recording the prize of my opera collection. Billy Budd is an amazing, moving, beautiful opera that leaves the listener unconsciously holding his breath at the end. Britten's music never ceases to amaze me, and this is my personal favorite of all his works. Those already familiar with the opera may want to know that this is the four-act version. This recording is excellent in every way - the three star performers especially are perfect for their roles. Hampson sounds young, charming, handsome and joyful as Billy; he has a beautiful voice and skilled understanding of the music, text and character. Halfvarson is an amazingly evil, powerful, captivating Claggart. Rolfe Johnson sings Capt. Vere with a sensitivity that captures the listener's own emotions - when the orchestra finishes playing, we are left with him alone, the "sole earthly witness" and survivor. I can't say enough about this recording, or this wonderful opera!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britten at his best 5 Feb 2007
By M. T. Risner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I must admit that I am late in coming to this wonderful recording. I purchased the more recent Chandos recording led by Hickox that features Simon Keenlyside in the title role. That recording is wonderful and you may read my review thereof if you wish, but let us come to this equally fine reading of Britten's masterful score by Nagano and company. Here we find Billy Budd in it's original Four Act version. The added (or rather, subtracted) material brings with it a greater understnding of the characters, particularly Captain Vere and how his men perceive him, but is not necessary to the drama and was thusly omitted. The music is hauntingly beautiful and if you are familiar with the more commercialy available Two Act version, then the restored music found here will be a real treat. The singing is most excellent, particularly from Thomas Hampson in the title role. This wonderful baritone has the perfect tone quality for the role of Billy and his English declamation is superb. He is nicely foiled by the Claggart of Eric Halfvarson, whose dark, menacing tone rules the set when he is present. Caught between them as Vere is Anthony Rolfe Johnson. The Englishman's tenor is well-suited if a little light for Vere's high-lying line. The men of the ensemble sing magnificently and Nagano absolutely flies through the score, though the listener never feels that he is rushing, only that the action is leading to its inevitable, tragic end. Very highly recommended!
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