Bel Air Clas­siques

BBC Music Magazine - - Bbc Music Magazine Awards -

Brit­ten Billy Budd

Jac­ques Im­brailo, Toby Spence, Brind­ley Sher­ratt et al; Cho­rus and Or­ches­tra of Teatro Real de Madrid/ivor Bolton; dir. Deb­o­rah Warner Bel Air Clas­siques BAC154

JURY AWARD

Vividly filmed, this 2017 pro­duc­tion of Brit­ten’s seaborne opera ‘brought me close to tears’, re­vealed our re­viewer Daniel Jaffé. Fel­low view­ers may well find them­selves sim­i­larly storm-tossed.

‘Billy Budd packs a punch like no other opera,’ says con­duc­tor Ivor Bolton. ‘Deb­o­rah Warner’s claus­tro­pho­bic pro­duc­tion brings home the hor­ror of these ships, where peo­ple lived hor­ri­ble lives in con­tained spa­ces. The set de­sign was full of at­mos­phere and de­tail, with­out be­ing lit­eral.’

But Warner’s mas­tery of the stage goes be­yond the vis­ual and, says Bolton, even the most seem­ingly straight­for­ward char­ac­ters leave room for doubt. ‘She’s very good at play­ing the am­bi­gu­ity within roles. Clag­gart is of­ten por­trayed as sim­ply evil, but her pro­duc­tion leaves us ask­ing more ques­tions about him than it an­swers.’

A trio of singers seem­ingly born to play the main roles – Jac­ques Im­brailo (Billy Budd), Toby Spence (Vere) and Brind­ley Sher­ratt (Clag­gart) – may grab the at­ten­tion but, says Bolton, this was a ven­ture where no stone was left un­turned. ‘The pro­duc­tion’s sub­tlety was achieved by a lot of hard work in the stu­dio. Then ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the won­der­ful Teatro Real cho­rus, re­ally com­mit­ted to it. A real team ef­fort.’

Sea fever: Jac­ques Im­bralio

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