on 14 May 2011
This is a very fine performance indeed. No fancy modern touches, pyjamas, underwear and other rubbish that have ruined several other recent Blu-ray recordings! I have compared it very carefully with the old ENO production on DVD and in almost every respect it is better. Only perhaps in the performance of the evil John Claggert does Richard van Allen give a bit darker and evil sounding reading but not by very much. This is Britten's finest opera and it will be a long time before we get a better recording. Every lover of 20th century opera should try this disc. Superb! Can we hope for Peter Grimes, more Janacek and some Sallinen?
Mark Elder, the conductor for this production of Billy Budd at Glyndebourne 2010 notes that all Britten's opera works are in some way about the loss of innocence. It's an interesting observation that, if too neat and reductive a way to describe the qualities and the approach that Britten takes on the subject in Billy Budd, at least shows that it's a personal theme that means something to the composer. Elder, of course, isn't intending to summarise the power and complexity of this opera or Britten's work in a single phrase, and his deep understanding of the wider themes of Billy Budd is evident in his conducting of this remarkable production.
More than just being about the loss of innocence, it's the different manner in which that innocence is corrupted in each of Britten's operas (Peter Grimes, The Turn of the Screw), that makes them such intriguing works, works that are consequently capable of creating a deep impression on the listener. And although on the surface, Billy Budd, adapted from a short novel by Herman Melville, seems simple enough in its broad depiction of the malicious and deliberate destruction by cruel and heartless authorities of an innocent young man - a common sailor on board the HMS Indomitable in 1797, hard-working, of good heart, kind to his comrades, respectful of his superiors and loyal to the crown - the question of what motivates such behaviour (in the form of John Claggart, the ship's master-of-arms) and how it is sanctioned, or at least tolerated (in the weakness of Captain Vere) is a much more complex and interesting subject that the opera touches upon.
The nature of those drives that lead to such abuse of the innocent and the inexplicable failure of those with intelligence and authority to do anything about them might not be fully comprehensible, but the nature of how they are expressed in the opera and the wider implications of the piece is given a masterful comprehensive presentation in this production at Glyndebourne in 2010 by Mark Elder and Michael Grandage with the London Philharmonic. This is an outstanding production in every respect, conducted and played with verve and passion, capturing the full dynamic and range of the score, bringing it vividly to life. The staging is most impressive, aiming for solidity and period authenticity, while also being magnificently designed to keep the fluidity that Britten strove to achieve in the reduction of the opera to two acts. The singing and characterisation is great across the board, Jacques Imbrailo singing wonderfully while characterising all the innocence and passion of Billy Budd in every movement and expression, Philip Ens a charmingly sinister presence as Claggart, and John Mark Ainsley a superb Captain Vere, the conflicted heart and mind caught between the polar extremes of the two men's position. With all this, and fine performances in the other roles, this exceptional staging of Billy Budd is never less than gripping, dazzling and thought-provoking.
A fantastic, near-definitive production of the opera, it's given an equally fine presentation on Blu-ray from Opus Arte. Directed for the screen by François Roussillon, the production looks magnificent, striking a perfect balance between close-ups and letting the full impact of the staging to be experienced. The image is clear and detailed, the sound mix both in LPCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 dynamic and resoundingly powerful. Extra features consist of a 10 minute overview of the opera and the production, and a look at the costume designs.
on 1 May 2011
BRILLIANT, WONDERFUL, SUPERB, FANTASTIC, MIND BLOWING !!!!!! get the picture BUY THIS BLU RAY
Probably one of the best productions of one of the best operas ever !!!!
The soloists are superb ! The chorus is on top form ! The orchestra cannot be faulted ! & Mark Elder brings the whole together in an exemplary fashion. If this Blu ray fails to win awards by the chest full there is no justice. 5 stars are not enough it is out there infront of all currently available opera blu rays.
thank you to all involved
NB audio and screen are in sync unlike some recent recordings
on 6 July 2011
This is quite possibly the finest dvd of a live opera performance currently available. I regret I didn't get to see it at Glyndebourne but judging by this dvd it must have been a magnificent evening. Firstly the direction and set design are faultless. However we have all seen many wonderful opera productions rendered impotent by clumsy camera direction and editing. Not so here, with immaculate camera work capturing the tension, claustrophobia, brutality and fear of life on a Napoleonic warship.
And then there are the performances. Down to the last man this is a superb cast. Subtlety of expression and acting commitment abound so that not one of the singer-actors is exposed as weak by the scrutiny of camera close-ups, so often the problem with filmed opera. Indeed the camera spends a great deal of profitable time right in the face of the main protagonists so that, for example, all the angst, goodness and indecision of Captain Vere's character (around which the whole plot hinges) as played by John Mark Ainsley are beautifully captured.
People who know this opera well will know that it possesses extraordinary dramatic power in the theatre...for me it is dramatically superior to the more popular Peter Grimes. They will probably also have various preferences for favourite castings in their memory. But as a whole this cast is as good as i've seen.
More importantly, as a DVD recording of this opera no other version comes close.
on 11 February 2012
I am fortunate to now possess three versions of Bitten's finest opera. They are all very good but this 2010 Glyndebourne production, expertly captured on DVD, deserves the gold medal and will be the definitive version on offer for many years to come. The production values are excellent (not a hint of a dustbin on Mars) and successfully evoke the horrors then endured by the unfortunate British seamen on a British Man of War. Under the baton of Sir Mark Elder the playing of the London Philharmonic Orchestra is first class as is the chorus. In a large cast of soloists Iain Paterson as Mr Redburn and Jeremy White as Dansker stand out. The production is well served by the three leads. Jon Mark Ainsley succeeds admirably in conveying Vere's guilt ridden anguish. The youthful looks of Jacques Imrailo (so important) plus fine singing establish Billy's goodness, innocence and final confusion. In the demanding role of Claggart Phillip Ens cannot quite match the sublime evil of Michael Langdon and Richard Van Allen in portraying a character with no redeeming features
There is every possibility that this production will become as famous as the highly acclaimed La Taviata at Covent Garden of 1994 which established
Angela Gheorghiu as the most famous Violetta of her generation