Central City Opera’s 87th Festival season features the Colorado premiere of Benjamin Britten’s colossal opera Billy Budd. Following the title character’s forced enlistment in the British Navy and the ethical dilemma over crimes he commits in self-defense, Billy Budd ponders right and wrong and the role of law, forcing audiences to calibrate their own moral compasses.
This rendition of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd orchestral score was adapted specifically for performance in Central City Opera’s intimate theater through partnership with the Britten-Pears Foundation, Boosey & Hawkes, London and Maestro Steuart Bedford. Director and noted Benjamin Britten expert, Ken Cazan, returns for his 18th season with Central City Opera, continuing to share in the company’s quest of producing every work by the 20th century composer.
“I have an emotional relationship to Britten and have since I started to direct,” said Cazan. “There’s something about his music that I find so theatrical and challenging in its complexity, simplicity and honesty. I can’t think of any other composer who destroys me emotionally like Britten.”
Cazan conceived Billy Budd as a dreamscape told entirely from the perspective of Captain Vere, whose guilt over executing Billy Budd has eaten away at him his entire life. With much of the opera taking place in memory, Cazan uses dream-like projections, ship sails, ropes and rigging to capture the interplay of reality and recollection. Period-specific costumes built with historically accurate fabrics were designed for the show by Johnathan Knipscher, whose credits span nine seasons as a costume supervisor at the Metropolitan Opera and a film career including “The Greatest Showman.”
Baritone Joshua Hopkins returns to Central City Opera to play Billy Budd after The Rape of Lucretia in 2008 and Rinaldo in 2009. Tenor Daniel Norman and bass Kevin Burdette debut at Central City Opera, playing Captain Vere and John Claggart, respectively.
Bill Budd performance dates and times include the following.
Matinees at 2:30 p.m.: July 17, 21, 23, 27, 31; August 2
Evenings at 8 p.m.: July 13, 19, 25
Billy Budd is performed in English with English supertitles.
The Central City Opera 2019 Festival opens on July 6 with Puccini’s achingly beautiful opera, Madama Butterfly, which traces a young geisha’s life from her marriage to an American naval lieutenant at 15 years old, through determined motherhood, to an ultimate reclamation of self through her culture’s lethal code of honor.
Contrasting the all-male cast of Billy Budd, Central City Opera’s Double Bill, performed on July 23, 24 and 31 and Aug. 1, will feature an all-female cast performing Claude Debussy’s The Blessed Damozel and Francis Poulenc’s Litanies to the Black Virgin. Directed by Alessandro Taveli, these rarely-heard works will be performed back-to-back at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, down the street from the Opera House.
The Festival season closes out with Encore: A Musical Revue on Aug. 3 and Aug. 6. Conceived by Curt Olds who is a past principal and apprentice artist with Central City Opera, Encore: A Musical Revue is an exhilarating and eclectic mix of old and new musical theater.
For more information about Central City Opera’s 2019 summer Festival and to purchase tickets, visit centralcityopera.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-292-6700.
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