[Britten, Benjamin. (1913-76) & Pears, Peter. (1910-1986)]

"Billy Budd" - Original 1951 Opening Night Program

Original program from the December 1, 1951 opening night of Britten's opera, based on the short novel by Herman Melville. Britten conducted his own work at the Royal Opera House, starring Peter Pears and Theodor Uppman. 4 pp. Some light foxing and toning; overall in fine condition. 8.5 x 11.25 inches (21.5 x 28.5 cm).

Billy Budd was commissioned by the British Arts Council for the 1951 Festival of Britain; it was also Britten's first work written specially for Covent Garden. It received a tremendous 17 curtain calls and wide critical acclaim. The opera was here presented in its original four acts, though Britten later compressed it into two in 1960. Theodore Uppman sang the title role, with a cast that also included Peter Pears (Captain Vere) and Geraint Evans (Mr. Flint), who had originally planned to sing Billy Budd, but who withdrew because the role lay too high for his voice. According to Philip Brett, "Billy Budd, besides representing a considerable musical advance, also marks a distinct transition in Britten’s operatic output from a focus on oppression and its internalization to an exploration of authority and its ramifications." (New Grove.) (14314)

Program, unsigned