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The debut of Billy Budd in Madrid is, without doubt, one of the most important moments of the Bicentenary of the Teatro Real.

The magnificent libretto is based on the novel with the same name by Herman Melville. The action takes place aboard a ship of the British Royal Navy, it tells the story of the sailor Billy Budd: a beautiful youth who is loyal, generous, strong, naive and kind. Billy’s physical attributes and charisma disarm the ship's master-at-arms who is incapable of controlling the situation and in the end, he sacrifices the innocent lad without compunction.

This new production by the Teatro Real, in conjunction with the Opéra national de Paris and staging by renowned Deborah Warner, is sure to be an unforgettable experience. 

Starting Point

“Oh what have I done?” Captain Edward Fairfax Vere, former commander of the H.M.S. Indomitable asks himself. This flashback of an old man is the beginning of the story of Billy Budd, a young sailor whose beauty arouses an unbearable attraction in Claggart. The Master-at-arms enlists Billy but destroys him in the end because he cannot have him. Aboard this asphyxiating ship, Benjamin Britten explores the theme of innocence in a hostile world where a naïve boy is crucified without the slightest misgivings. Not even Vere makes a move to avoid the tragedy although he is fully conscious of the injustice aboard the ship under his command. Emotions of restraint and dissolution intertwine and mutually negate each other in an ambiguous story with an open ending. Herman Melville died without completing one of his most introspective works. Nonetheless, his talent to colour apparently mundane events with a perturbing dimension would find a perfect ally in the music of Britten which communicates the most profound of the human psyche. The debut of Billy Budd in Madrid is, without doubt, one of the most important moments of the Bicentenary of the Teatro Real.


"Billy Budd"

Opera in two acts

Music by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

Libretto by Edward Morgan Forster and Eric Crozier, after Billy Budd, by Herman Melville
Premiered at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, 1 December 1951 (first version) and 9 January 1964 (revised version).

Premiere at the Teatro Real

New production by the Teatro Real, in coproduction with the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Principal Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real
(Coro Intermezzo / Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid)

Pequeños Cantores de la Comunidad de Madrid

Sponsored by: 

Approximate running time

3 hours and 15 minutes

Act I: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Intermission: 25 minutes
Act II: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Production Team & Cast

  • Musical director: Ivor Bolton
  • Stage director: Deborah Warner
  • Set designer: Michael Levine
  • Costume designer: Chloé Obolensky
  • Lighting designer: Jean Kalman
  • Choreographer: Kim Brandstrup
  • Chorus Master: Andrés Máspero
  • Children's Chorus Master: Ana González
· - ·
  • Billy Budd: Jacques Imbrailo
  • Edward Fairfax Vere: Toby Spence
  • John Claggart: Brindley Sherratt
  • Mr. Redburn: Thomas Oliemans
  • Mr. Flint: David Soar
  • Lieutenant Ratcliffe: Torben Jürgens
  • Red Whiskers: Christopher Gillet
  • Donald: Duncan Rock
  • Dansker: Clive Bayley
  • A Novice: Sam Furness
  • Squeak: Francisco Vas
  • Bosun: Manel Esteve
  • First mate: Gerardo Bullón
  • Second Mate: Tomeu Bibiloni
  • The Novice's Friend: Borja Quiza
  • Maintop: Jordi Casanova
  • Arthur Jones: Isaac Galán

Performance Dates

  • 31 JAN (T) 20:00h
  • 3 FEB (F) 20:00h
  • 6 FEB (M) 20:00h
  • 9 FEB (T) 20:00h
  • 12 FEB (S) 18:00h
  • 15 FEB (W) 20:00h
  • 18 FEB (S) 20:00h
  • 22 FEB (W) 20:00h
  • 25 FEB (S) 20:00h
  • 28 FEB (T) 20:00h
  • Place: Main Auditorium


More photos here.

Programme of show

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