Billy Budd sets sail for New York

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Glyndebourne’s critically acclaimed production of Billy Budd is to set sail for New York in February for its US première.

This is the first time Glyndebourne will stage Britten’s seafaring epic outside the UK. The production will appear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) between February 7 and 13 and tickets are selling well.

Beloved by critics and audiences alike at its UK première in 2010, and again when it was revived by Glyndebourne for the 2013 Festival, the all-male cast is powerfully directed by renowned theatre director Michael Grandage. South African baritone Jacques Imbrailo is in the title role and Mark Padmore and Brindley Sherratt will perform as Captain Vere and Claggart.

This is the first ever US staging of Glyndebourne’s sell-out Festival production and the renowned cast is supported by the Glyndebourne Chorus and Sir Mark Elder who will conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra. BAM’s Billy Budd staging features the same cast who appeared in Glyndebourne’s 2013 Festival revival, a production which secured 5 star reviews across its run. Hailed by The Guardian in August 2013 as “a staging of outstanding perception and visual cohesion”, this production sold-out on its last appearance in August 2013.

Glyndebourne’s General Director David Pickard said: “Glyndebourne has always taken great pride in the quality of the productions we create and we are delighted that in 2014 we will be sharing and celebrating one of Britten’s finest works with US audiences. Glyndebourne has always had a wonderful relationship with the United States and we are delighted to feature so prominently in BAM’s spring season. Staging this emotive opera as part of the Britten centenary celebrations in the US is an honour for Glyndebourne.”

Benjamin Britten spent considerable time in New York in the late 1930s and early 1940s and this period helped shaped the musical outlook of one of the UK’s most prolific and popular composers. Based on the novel by American author Herman Melville and adapted by librettists E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier, Billy Budd is a story of injustice set in the tense and stifling atmosphere of a British ship in the Napoleonic wars.

BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo said: “BAM’s history with Glyndebourne Festival dates back to 2001 with The Makropulos Case. We are thrilled to bring this powerful production of Billy Budd to New York audiences, and also proud to join Glyndebourne in this important tribute to the great Benjamin Britten.”

Billy Budd marked Michael Grandage’s operatic début in 2010. Commenting on why he chose this work as his first opera, Mr Grandage said: “I was brought up by the sea and Britten’s music has always moved me; I was particularly keen that the first opera that I directed should be in English. I’ve seen Billy Budd many times in the past and have always been struck by the extraordinary depth of character in the piece. That’s what I enjoy most when excavating text in the theatre and I’ve enjoyed a similar journey with Budd.”