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Backstage at LA Opera’s “Billy Budd”

Billy Budd collageCultural Cocktail Hour’s Editor-in-Chief Leticia Marie Sanchez had the opportunity to go backstage on the set of Benjamin Britten’s seafaring opera Billy Budd which opens at LA Opera on February 22nd.

Backstage at Billy Budd: 3 Fun Facts

1. Water and Britten

Conductor James Conlon explained, “Water is an enormous element in Britten’s music.” Born in the fishing port of Lowestoft, England, Britten was influenced by his childhood panorama; as an adult, he set many of his operas in locales surrounded by water. For instance, Peter Grimes takes place in a fishing village.Death in Venice takes place in the Italian city of canals, while Billy Budd takes place on a battleship, the HMS Indomitable.

2. The Odyssey of the Set

The set that you will see braved London storms, the Panama Canal, New York tempests- and (whew!) made it to Los Angeles safely.

3. Singing while stuttering

Backstage at LA Opera, CCH interviewed baritone Liam Bonner who plays Billy Budd, asking him about the hero’s stutter. In the opera (and Herman Melville’s novella, on which the opera is based) the idealistic, kind-hearted hero is depicted as having a stammer. In the narrative, the stutter plays a crucial role; when Billy is falsely accused of a crime, he is so aghast and flustered that he cannot verbally defend himself.

CCH: “Do you incorporate the stutter into your role?”

Liam Bonner: “Yes. It’s the hardest part of the piece to get in your body.” Mr. Bonner admitted. He described looking down at the prompter to see a plethora of stutters incorporated into the libretto. “There’s one. There’s another one.”

Photo Collage © 2014 by  Leticia Marie Sanchez

Clockwise: Interior Dorothy Chandler Pavillion during orchestra rehearsal, sheet music used by musicians during rehearsal, the set of Billy Budd, Liam Bonner speaking to the press.

Posted by on February 17th, 2014

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