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on 13 May 2011
I already have two DVDs of Billy Budd [the original BBC TV Production with Peter Glossop and the ENO with Thomas Allen]. This Glyndeborne production is truly magnificent. Superlatives escape me. Bearing in mind the cost of seats at the theatre it is truly a bargain to be able to buy this DVD - even if you watch it only once. IF you think you do not like "opera" or the music of Benjamin Britten you could do worse than give this a try. Look at is as an intense pschological drama with tense and throbbing "background music" and you will soon be captured and enthralled! The others who have reviewd this DVD/Blue Ray have said everything with which I totally agree. If you do like this then try the Glyndebourne Tristan & Isolde as well.
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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?
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on 9 May 2011
I was fortunate enough to see this production at Glyndebourne during summer 2010 and coming back to this Blu-ray a year on I am even more convinced that this must be considered a definitive production of this opera.

The emotional intensity of the theatre is superbly captured in this moving and evocotive disc.

Highly recommended.
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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.
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on 24 September 2013
This production scores on every level and should be seen by opera fans everywhere - even those who think they don't like Benjamin Britten! The singing, acting and production combine to give the viewer a stunning theatrical experience - don't miss it!
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on 1 May 2011
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
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on 9 October 2013
Brilliant production and superb quality. The cast deliver their roles with passion and the choreography is excellent. A must for Glyndebourne and Britten fans
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on 25 June 2011
This is a magnificent production. The best production of Britten operas' currently in the DVD/Blu ray catalogue.

Realistic, period sets and costumes bring us to the time of the opera. Lighting and video direction do justice to the visual aspects of the production.

Jacques Imbrailo brings the innocence of Billy Bud causing the viewer to sympathize and share the hero's feelings throughout. Phillip Ens may not be as sinister and unsympathetic a Claggart as Michael Langdon was in the Mackerras/Pears set Britten - Billy Budd (Pears, Mackerras) [DVD] [1970], but still he is a daemonic schemer,plotting against Budd. John Mark Ainsley, in the role of Captain Vere, inevitably triggers comparison with Peter Pears on the above set. He may not have the aristocratic class of Pears and he does not quite become as sympathetic a figure as his peer, still he serves the role with adequacy.

Picture is of top quality and sound is excellent, with a fine balance between voices and orchestra.

May we ask for a Peter Grimes from Glyndebourne and if we are not too greedy, a revival of the magnificent Peter Hall production of Albert Herring Britten - Albert Herring (Glyndebourne Festival Opera) [DVD]? These would complement the magnificent, albeit in a diffent style production of Death in Venice Britten: Death in Venice [DVD] [2010] by Teatro La Fenice in Venice and would complete the cycle of recent productions of the major Britten operas.
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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.
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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

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