At Teatro Real de Madrid, ES | 31 January to 28 February 2017

As director Deborah Warner defined it, «Melville’s Billy Budd is a multilayered parable about good and evil. Adding music to adapt to opera, complexity increases, constantly challenging us to question good and evil, innocence and corruption, love and hate – and submerging ourselves in an open and unanswered ambiguity-. […] Most of Britten’s works are built on the idea that sexual love is dangerous. However,» she added, «what strikes me is that affection and tenderness are the strongest feelings that emanate from this work. Life on this ship – the Indomitable – is hard, violent and often unpleasant. The community that inhabits this ship is a community of men, many of them forced soldiers and conscripts working in the terrible conditions of an eighteenth-century warship. The most devastating and moving moments of the opera are, in turn, the most tender among these men».

Michael Levine’s design brilliantly creates this atmosphere. While creating spaces that evoke a cage, a prison, the scene is never heavy, created by linear elements and lights in a perfectly balanced interaction, both in dramatic space and image composition. The idea of an oppressive and claustrophobic sailors’ deck yet serenely crossing the seas. The scenes take place on hanging and oscillating platforms. The officers’ deck hangs over the sailors’ cabin tracing a sharp division. Ladders, ropes, hammocks, 2 sails, 800 litres of water and yet hatches, petates, all create a very suggestive atmosphere in an extremely contemporary design.

Michael Levine – Billy Budd (B. Britten) – 2017
Staging Deborah Warner
Set design Michael Levine
Costume design Chloé Obolensky
Light design Jean Kalman
Photo credits Javier del Real