Opera Scotland

Billy Budd 1992Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Billy Budd

At this period, Scottish Opera generally mounted nine main-stage operas each season, in groups of three. If funds allowed, there would be a small-scale production as well. For the 1991/92 season, the piano-accompanied tour, with 33 performances through the autumn, was of Maria Stuarda. The main stage schedule began at the Edinburgh Festival with a new production of La Clemenza di Tito. There were two more new stagings - Die Walküre and Don Giovanni. The six revivals were Madam Butterfly, Carmen, La traviata, Billy Budd, The Marriage of Figaro and Aïda.

The only revival of Graham Vick’s 1987 staging, in Chris Dyer's effectively atmospheric set, was notable for several factors which made it memorable. Firstly, Richard Armstrong took over the revival at short notice, following the departure from the company of John Mauceri. Armstrong's magnificent track record in twentieth century classics included a legendary staging by Michael Geliot during his years at Welsh National (launching Thomas Allen as Billy), so this opera was the perfect vehicle for him to establish himself as the company’s new leader.

The production, now supervised by Vick's 1987 assistant Paul Maloney, as with his revival of Vick’s Carmen the previous year, gave greater focus to what had been a staging of undoubted potential. Perhaps most important of all was the debut of Simon Keenlyside in the title role. This young baritone had spent several seasons in the company gradually establishing his credentials, but his Billy, like his first Papageno a few months later, seemed to spring fully-formed into astonishing life.

The cast also included an important company debut by Nigel Robson, a returning Scot, as Vere. Eric Roberts and David Gwynne had both been in that Welsh production (as Novice's Friend and Mr Ratcliffe, respectively). Other notable performers included Gordon Sandison, recently the company's Falstaff, in a rather shorter role. If Gidon Saks did not quite have the expected impact as Claggart, that may have been because he was competing with memories of John Tomlinson in the first run.

Performance DatesBilly Budd 1992

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

19 Feb, 19.15 22 Feb, 19.15 25 Feb, 19.15 27 Feb, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

9 Apr, 19.15

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