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Britten: Billy Budd Box set

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Product details

  • Performer: Simon Keenlyside, Philip Langridge, John Tomlinson, Alan Opie
  • Orchestra: Tiffin Boys' School Choir, London Symphony Chorus
  • Conductor: Richard Hickox
  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Audio CD (20 April 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B00004SUDA
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 102,372 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Disc 1:

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Prologue: I am an old man ? (Vere) 5:10£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Pull, me bantams! (First Mate, Second Mate, Sailing Master, Sailor, Bosun, Midshipmen, Donald, Maintop, Deck, Novice, Men, Squeak, Chorus) 6:43£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Boat ahoy! (Maintop, Voice, Midshipmen, Sailing Master, First Lieutenant, Bosun, Ratcliffe) 3:16£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: First man forward! (Claggart, Red Whiskers, First Lieutenant, Sailing Master, Jones) 2:16£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Your name? (Claggart, Billy, First Lieutenant, Sailing Master) 2:39£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Billy Budd, king of the birds! (Billy, Sailing Master, First Lieutenant, Ratcliffe) 2:27£0.79  Buy MP3 

Disc 2:

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: I heard, your honour! (Claggart, Squeak, Novice's Friend) 3:30£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Come along, kid! (Novice's Friend, Novice, Chorus) 4:21£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Christ! The poor chap ? (Billy, Dansker, Red Whiskers, Donald) 1:30£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: What's that? What's those whistles? (Billy, Donald, Claggart, First Mate, Second Mate, Bosun) 1:15£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  5. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 1: Starry Vere we call him. (Donald, Billy, Chorus, Red Whiskers, Dansker, Bosun) 2:17£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 2: Boy! (Vere, Boy) 3:24£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 2: Gentlemen, the King! (Vere, First Lieutenant, Sailing Master) 5:43£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 2: Ay, at Spithead ? (Vere, Sailing Master, First Lieutenant) 1:00£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 2: We are, sir. Claggart is an able one. (First Lieutenant, Vere, Sailing Master, Ratcliffe) 6:35£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: Blow her away. (Red Whiskers, Chorus, Billy, Donald, Dansker) 2:44£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: We're off to Samoa ? (Donald, Chorus, Red Whiskers, Billy, Dansker) 3:43£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: Hi! You ? a ? a ? ! (Billy, Dansker, Red Whiskers, Donald, Squeak, Billy, Claggart, Boy, Chorus) 3:02£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen13. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: Over the water ? (Claggart, Chorus) 7:29£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen14. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: Come here. (Claggart, Novice) 6:22£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen15. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: Billy! ? Hist! Billy Budd! (Novice, Billy) 4:23£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen16. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act I Scene 3: Dansker, old friend ? (Billy, Dansker) 4:50£0.79  Buy MP3 

Disc 3:

Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 1: I don't like the look of the mist ? (Vere, First Lieutenant) 2:18£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  2. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 1: With great regret I must disturb your honour. (Claggart, Vere) 1:03£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  3. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 1: Deck ahoy! (Maintop, Bosun, Sailing Master, First Lieutenant, Ratcliffe, Hauling Party, Vere, Gunners, Seamen, After-Guardsmen, Powder-Monkeys, Marines, Chorus) 3:26£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 1: Volunteers! Call for boarding volunteers! (Vere, First Lieutenant, Donald, Red Whiskers, Dansker, Billy, Seamen, After-Guardsmen, Powder-Monkeys, Marines, Gunners, 8:13Album Only
Listen  5. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 1: There you are again, Master-at-Arms. (Vere, Claggart, Boy) 5:01£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 1: Oh, this cursed mist! (Vere, First Lieutenant, Sailing Master, Ratcliffe) 4:03£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  7. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II scene 2: Claggart, John Claggart, beware! (Vere, Billy) 3:36£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  8. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 2: Master-at-Arms and foretopman ? (Vere, Claggart, Billy) 3:19£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  9. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 2: God o' mercy! (Vere, Boy) 2:10£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen10. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 2: Gentlemen, William Budd here ? (Vere, First Lieutenant, Sailing Master, Ratcliffe) 1:34£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen11. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II scene 2: William Budd, you are accused ? (First Lieutenant, Vere, Billy) 5:48£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen12. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 2: Poor fellow, who could save him? (First Lieutenant, Sailing Master, Ratcliffe) 5:02£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen13. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 2: I accept their verdict. (Vere) 5:15£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen14. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 3: Look! (Billy) 6:05£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen15. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 3: Here! Baby! (Dansker, Billy) 4:10£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen16. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 3: And farewell to ye ? (Billy) 5:47£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen17. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 4: Interlude 3:11£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen18. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 4: According to the Articles of War ? (All except Vere) 2:17£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen19. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Act II Scene 4: Down all hands! (First Lieutenant, Sailing Master, Ratcliffe, Chorus) 2:27£0.79  Buy MP3 
Listen20. Billy Budd, Op. 50: Epilogue: We committed his body to the deep. (Vere) 4:56£0.79  Buy MP3 

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "thesingingredhead" on 18 Aug. 2003
Format: Audio CD
A truly astounding rendition of an amazing work. Absolutely top class performances from Keenlyside, Langridge and Tomlinson (how scary is he when he first comes in with 'Your name?'...). I cannot praise this highly enough. It is an extremely complex work (you don't need me to tell you that) but it is very lucidly performed. There doesn't seem to be a weak link in it. I just wish I'd been at the live performance. All the smaller parts are sung with great clarity and carry great conviction, while the chorus sings with immense verve. Well worth the full price.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Aug. 2010
Format: Audio CD
This is a 1999 studio recording of the revised 1961 version of Britten's opera, in which the original four acts of 1951 were amalgamated into two, with a few excisions. The opera appears over three discs. The sound is very good indeed with each layer clearly heard, such as in the novice's lament: here, not only the novice himself, but also his friend, the chorus of sailors, the accompanying wailing saxophone, and the orchestra below are wonderfully mixed into the CD's sound. It is the only opera in the repertory (as far as I am aware) that has an all-male cast, set as it is on a Royal Naval frigate during the French Revolutionary Wars. In the sleevenotes, Michael Kennedy explains how the co-librettist EM Forster was the link between Herman Melville's original novella and Britten's opera.

Staged five years after `Peter Grimes', there are similarities in sound and style, as one would expect, such as the ship's crew chanting `O Heave! Heave, away, heave!". The complaints of Red Whiskers match the tone of Bob Boles, the Methodist preacher in the earlier opera; the shanty `We're Off to Samoa' mirrors `Old Joe Has Gone Fishing'; and `This Is Our Moment' mimics the march to Grimes's hut by the villagers, especially in its use of timpani. But I do not want to suggest that `Billy Budd' is in any way `Peter Grimes Mark II': it is not, but if you enjoyed the earlier opera, then you will enjoy this one too. I particularly liked how in `Billy Budd' Britten has a way of using repetitive but quiet, short-breathed, and unobtrusive chords in the lower strings to successfully convey a melancholic latent tension, especially in the first act.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Great new recording of Billy Budd 1 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This Chandos set is a great one and is of superlative quality. The Britten recording contains Michael Langdon's unforgettable Clag- gart. Simon Keenlyside gives a magnificent interpretation as Billy Budd, amazing in which he combined innocence, goodness and virility, never for a moment suggesting soppiness, with the final ballad sung most affectingly. Richard Hickox realizes all the opera's drama in excellent playing. Even so, the towering single performance of Philip Langridge as Captain Vere, singing in controlled emotion and sheer vocal magic. His enemy in the opera is sung with black malevolence by John Tomlinson, sometimes too melodramatic, but there are moments of introspection which chill the listener's blood. As for the supporting roles, they are sung by some of best male voices in British opera, led by Alan Opie, Matthew Best and Alan Ewing as the three officers, vividly and meaningfully sung and so I could go on. A great performance!
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Powerful Operatic Tale of Good and Evil 21 Nov. 2003
By Christopher Forbes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Britten - Billy Budd
Benjamin Britten consistently proved himself an operatic and dramatic genius. There are few canons in the history of opera that engage as highly on an emotional and intellectual level as Britten's operas, and certainly no other comparable canon in English. Britten consistently showed exquisite taste in choice of subject, setting of high quality poetic texts and psychological insight...that coupled with works that tackle timeless themes such as the clash of good and evil, and the individual against an uncomprehending society and you have some of the meatiest philosophical work of the 20th century.
Billy Budd did not meet with immediate success. The opera was dubbed The Buggar's Opera by the British Press...a swipe at the proclivities of the opera's co-creators, Britten, E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier. The all male cast also did not endear the work to the standard opera audience initially. In 1961, Britten revised the work, streamlining it into two lengthy acts with a Prologue and Postlude, and tightening some of the passages. In this form the work has steadily gained favor, until now it may rank with Peter Grimes as the composer's most popular opera.
The libretto, taken from Melville's late philosophical tale of Good and Evil aboard a British Man-o-war, is sharply drawn. The three main characters are all flesh and blood and yet represent distinct "types"...Billy Budd is fresh and honest goodness, so fresh and honest to survive in a fallen world. The Master at Arms, John Claggart, is a figure of pure evil, perhaps the best-drawn figure of evil in opera since Verdi and Boito's Iago. Billy Budd is pressed into service aboard the English ship during its wars with Napoleon. Budd is exuberant and embodies all the best qualities of youth and freshness. His attractive qualities bring him into direct conflict with Claggart, who in the opera is subliminally attracted to Billy, but so repressed that he seeks to destroy the sailor. Drawn into this clash of Good and Evil is Vere, the dreamy and heroic captain of the ship. When Claggart comes to Vere to accuse Billy of sedition, Vere knows instinctively that Billy is innocent, yet before he can do anything about it, Billy's temper gets the best of him and he strikes Claggart and kills him. Vere is then faced with the clear imperative to execute Billy for killing a superior officer, even though Vere knows that higher morality exonerates Billy.
Britten and Forster take the bones of this story and arrange it in separate and increasingly powerful scenes. The opening scene including the "recruitment" of men rounded up by press gangs, is dominated by shrill wind calls that illustrate the sheer brutality of life aboard a man-o-war. Underneath there are the beautiful and moving shanties of the sailors, expressing the bleakness of their toil and life. Claggart's entrance and music as he inducts the reluctant recruits is masterful. Claggart's music is brutal and powerful, and each time he enters in subsequent scenes the hair on the back of your neck raises. Other powerfully drawn scenes include Captain Vere's drinks in his cabin with the officers, which include some of the most beautiful lyrical writing in the opera, the below deck revels of the sailors, the confrontation between Billy and Claggart, and the stunning conclusion of the work.
What particularly makes this opera work is Britten's skill in differentiating all the male voices. It is rare that an opera of this length consists of only one voice gender. Perhaps the only other example I can think of is Puccini's Suor Angelica, and that is only a one-acter. Britten keeps things straight by writing highly individual music for all of his characters, even the periphery characters. Claggart's music is brutal and dark, and the voice is a basso profundo and as such immediately recognizable. Vere is a dreamy tenor, of the kind that Peter Pears played so well. Other periphery characters like the spy Squeak, or the Novice, have phrases that render them whole characters within a phrase or two. The music for Billy is perhaps the hardest to create, but Britten seems to catch both his good spirits and his temper so that the threads that make the tragedy are woven into Billy almost from the first time we meet him. Using these highly artificial musical procedures, Britten ends up creating some of the most naturalistic opera imaginable, and when all the disparate musical elements meet in the last scene, the effect is overwhelming.
There are currently three widely available recordings of this opera, the original London recording, with Britten conducting and Pears as Vere, a recording with Thomas Hampson and Kent Nagano conducting, and this Chandos recording. You can't go wrong with any of them. The London recording has the advantage of Pears amazing and amazingly weird voice in a role that was written for him...and John Shirley Quirk's powerful Claggart. But to me the Chandos edges it out by a little, with Langridge's very powerful Vere. In this recording you realize that neither Billy nor Claggart is the main character of this drama, Vere is. Langridge sings the role with restraint and yet with true pathos, so that by the end, you are openly weeping for the man caught in an insoluble moral dilemma. And John Tomlinson's Claggart is even more terrifying than Shirley-Quirk. The Nagano disc has the edge on its Billy though. Thomas Hampson owns the role, though on this release Simon Keelyside does a fine job with the title character. Hickox and Nagano are both in excellent control of the material, and edge out Britten, who's rendition must be considered a benchmark in terms of tempi, but who's skills as a conductor were not always of the highest quality. On balance, I think I'd opt for this disc, were I to only own one version of the opera.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Must have for Britten fans 7 Aug. 2000
By mensagrrrl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have seen Phil Langridge do Capt. Vere a couple of times, with two different Budds, each time I was amazed at how audible the audience crying is. The man is simply amazing as Vere. This is the creme of the crop of English opera singers; Dwayne Croft and James Morris might be better vocally but these people are better actors. Great Great opera.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Anniversary 3 Nov. 2006
By Arthur Maisel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Yesterday, November 2, was the fifty-fifth anniversary of Benjamin Britten's completion of Billy Budd, and I have been thinking a lot about the opera lately (partly because I read the Melville original to my family as we were driving places this summer and that led me back to the opera). Of the three performances in stereo (conducted by Hickox, Nagano, and Britten), this is the weakest. With probably the best recorded sound of the three---the spaciousness is superb---it suffers in two main areas: First, the tempos are too slow. This means, not that there is a perfect tempo that can be indicated by a metronome marking, but that in any given performance the tempo must convince one of its "rightness"---see my comments about the Nagano performance below. Pop musicians speak about a "groove," and it applies to classical music too. Particularly unfortunate in this regard is the big set piece that opens act 2 ("This is our moment"), which seems to drag and lose steam somewhere in the middle; it's supposed to represent the frustration of the crew's desire to see action, but the music has therefore never to flag until it is left hanging, unfulfilled, at the moment of maximum excitement.

The other weakness is, I regret to say, the singing, particularly of Philip Langridge. He sounds vocally tired on this recording and I suspect that he gamely agreed for some set of practical reasons (scheduling, expense) to go ahead and do it, despite knowing that he was not in his best voice. I saw him do Vere at the Met [7/31/08 actually I saw Pears at the Met], and he was wonderful---and I was even more wowed by his Aaron in Moses und Aron at the City Opera. Simon Keenlyside is a good Billy, but I simply like the others more. John Tomlinson, though, has a suavity of tone that makes him my favorite Claggart.

Vocally, the other two recordings are much preferable. Anthony Rolfe Johnson, the Vere in the Nagano recording, captures some of the spooky vocal quality of Peter Pears in his performance, though it must be said, without the consummate attention to detail. Compare Pears' and Johnson's readings of the last lines of the opera: Pears carries his voice down (portamento) from the last note of "centuries ago" to the first note of "when I, Edward Fairfax Vere, commanded the Indomitable"; Johnson just sings one line, then the next. Thomas Hampson's Billy is also very beautifully sung; he is probably my favorite of the three, but (1) I think it is an almost impossible role to bring off dramatically---though I haven't heard Uppman---and (2) I think the quality of the Vere is more important to the overall impression.

The problem with this recording (the Nagano) is in the tempos, as has been remarked by at least one reviewer. Surprisingly, they are the most in accord with the score---even more so than the composer's performance. In this case, however, everything seems rushed. The only way I can explain it is to say that while the tempos follow the letter of the score, the music doesn't "breathe." I tend to doubt that Nagano's tempos are the result of a desire to get the opera on to two CDs, as another reviewer cynically suggested, but his rendering of the thirty-four chords of the "interview" scene are almost comically fast, though, alas, gorgeously played.

To go off on a tangent, the Nagano recording is the only one of the original four-act version. The main difference is in the big "Starry Vere" scene of act 1, which is much cut back (and in which Vere doesn't actually appear) in the two-act version. This recording does make a case for the four-act version because Billy's last line ("Starry Vere, God bless you!") has a better context with the scene intact. I do have a gripe, however: Britten composed the ending of each act so that the music seems to pick up where it left off in the next---inspired by Berg's Wozzeck (Britten had wanted to study with Berg and once listed him as among his top ten favorite composers). So why didn't the recording company put a decent break between the acts? The link that he composed between acts 3 and 4 seems particularly redundant without some intervening silence.

The Britten performance with Pears is still the best overall, in my opinion, despite some scrappy brass playing and some distortion in the recording. One tiny example perhaps gives a hint of why. Of course, Britten observes his own tempos accurately, but when Vere sings "What have I done?" near the end, Britten lets lose with a whack! on the bass drum---maybe just on the spur of the moment---while the score calls for the drum to be played softly [7/31/08 I mistook the second bass drum hit for the first in the score, so this is not accurate, but the point is still valid]. It's musically absolutely right, and noteworthy as an instance of a composer justifiably disregarding his own marking. A terrific musician first, Britten was not a slave to the score, even his own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A fine recording of Britten's fine opera 5 Feb. 2007
By M. T. Risner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This was the first opera by Benjamin Britten that I purchased and I have been in love with his music ever since. The sound is wonderful and the balance between voices and orchestra is spectacular. This singing is absolutely top drawer. Langridge is the closest thing to Peter Pears that our generation has and thank goodness he has an affinity for Britten! His Vere is powerful and sublimely heart-felt. He copes manfully with the strange tessitura and range, bringing great emotion and pathos to the role. John Tomlinson is a smooth-voiced Claggart, more Iago than Mephisto, twisting each phrase and note toward its most vile connotation. His monologue about Billy is simply dripping with hate and jealousy; and--could it be?--attraction toward Billy and hatred of himself for having those urges? A breathtaking reading. Simon Keenlyside is simply the most virile and sensually-voiced Billy on record. He cannot match Hamspson's sweetness and innocence of tone, however Keenlyside's is a Billy we can believe men would follow as a leader and who could kill a man with one punch. His "and farewell to ye" at the end of the opera is less an acceptance of death, but an affirmation of life and his faith in something greater than he; it is one of my most favorite operatic moments. Hickox helms a tight ship and the ensemble singing is haunting and powerfull. Warmly recommeded!
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