BIlly Budd disappoints
Mark Morris | Wetaskiwin, Canada | 06/13/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It is good to have a DVD of Billy Budd, perhaps Britten's greatest opera, but this ENO production, that should have had everything going for it - experienced Billy Budd cast, good conductor and director - simply misfires. Perfectly OK to get to know the opera, but for anyone who has seen a production that wrings the soul(such as the recent WNO (Welsh National Opera)/Australian Opera Company production conducted by Richard Hickox) this offering seems insipid, and does not convey the real power this opera has.The fundamental problem seems to be one of body-language. With the close-up shots in this DVD, too many of the cast seem to be concentrating on the singing rather than the character (and this shows in the characterization of the voices), and their body-language fails to convey the emotions. This is reflected in the conducting by David Atherton - perfectly servicable, but without any of the bite and fire that Britten himself, or Hickox, to name but two, have brought to this score.The actual procution itself reflects this rather bland impression. The Napoleonic period costumes (and one can hardly avoid them) are reduced to bare, simple essentials, as if half-formed, and though there are visual moments that have considerable impact, these are few and far between. Perhaps the whole thing is summarized by the midshipmen: a line of boy singers sanding side by side to one side of the stage - no colour, no vibrancy, no particular involvement with the action.So if you see this, yes, you will get some concept of the opera, but no real idea how powerful it can be. If Covent Garden ever revive their famous production, where the entire ship was on stage, cut away so all the decks can be seen - and film it with a cast of this calibre really working with an electric conductor - then that would be the DVD to cherish. In the meantime, WNO, where are you? Their procution would have made a great DVD.Mark Morris"
The only dvd recording of a masterpiece
francisbit | 01/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"At least, the only recording on dvd of one of the masterpieces of the 2oth century music; Britten opera, based on Melville's book and with a libretto by Crozier and Forster (!) is a marvellous opera, rich of ambiguities and dark music. The star of the opera is not Billy himself but Vere: here we have the greatest successor of Peter Pears, Langridge. Van Allan (Claggart) is clearly presented as a miltonian Satan, full of unhappiness and yet very proud, terrible and self-hating for his physical attraction to Billy, Thomas Allen is a superb Billy but he really does not have the good and freslooking appearance requested by such a role.I hope we'll soon can capture on dvd Kenlyside performance."
Fine Production; Great Score
Ken Schellenberg | Arlington, VA United States | 02/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a finely acted production. The only flaw is some odd business at the beginning with books (why are sailors rowing books? Peculiar symbolism). Once the story gets going, the odd staging disappears. The singers are well cast, and the parts finely sung. The DVD has very clear sound and a perfect picture."