Budd, Billy

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(Britten: Billy Budd). Bar. A press-ganged able seaman who has a stammer. He is delighted to be serving Capt. Vere on board HMS Indomitable during the French Wars in 1797. The evil Master-at-Arms, Claggart, unfairly suspects Billy of trying to rouse the men to mutiny and orders Squeak to spy on him. Billy finds Squeak searching his kitbag, accuses him of stealing, and fights with him. Claggart is determined to prove to Vere that Billy is a bad influence. When Billy tries to defend his actions, he stammers and can't get the words out. In frustration he strikes out at Claggart who hits his head as he falls and dies. A court-martial is held and Billy is sentenced to death. He is put into chains and while awaiting hanging he sings of the life he loved as a sailor and tells of his admiration for Capt. Vere. He knows his fellow-sailors want to avenge him, and he insists they must not mutiny on his behalf but must respect their captain, who he knows is a good man, even though Vere did not intervene to save him from the death sentence—‘Starry Vere’, he calls him, just before he dies. Arias: Billy Budd, king of the birds!; Look! Through the port comes the moonshine astray. There have been some outstanding exponents of this role, such as Peter Glossop, Thomas Allen, Simon Keenlyside, and, of course, its creator. Created (1951) by Theodor Uppman. See also article by Theodor Uppman.

Subjects: Opera.

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