But should a composer's second thoughts about his piece be adhered to or is it equally valid to uphold the first version? Perhaps if the initial version hasn't been deliberately destroyed then both are open to scrutiny. In the case of Billy Budd, as with Verdi's Don Carlos, there is perhaps a definite case to to made out for both editions. Indeed, Verdi's epic scale and the marrying of public and private worlds is emulated by Britten in Budd. Yet that's not the only previous operatic model he turns to. The opera's architechtonics and skilful juxtaposition of leitmotif, especially in the four-act original, parallel those of Berg in his Lulu. Plus, again in the original, the character of Captain Vere is fleshed out with far more psychological depth than in the revision.
Which version of Billy Budd is superior is an issue Brittenites will no doubt go on debating for some time. Whichever, for these two Halle performances, to be recorded for eventual release by Erato, an all-star international cast has been assembled, featuring American baritone Thomas Hampson in the title role, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson as Captain Vere and Eric Halfvarson as Claggart, with choral forces for this all-male voiced opera coming from the the Halle Choir and Manchester Boy's Choir.
EYE ON THE NEW
Erich Korngold's prodigiousness is said to have equalled Mozart's. A Korngold Centenary concert on Thursday includes his precocious Op.15 Piano Quartet, plus a selection of German and Hollywood songs performed by mezzo soprano Anne Sophie von Otter
Wigmore Hall, Wigmore Street, London W1 (0171-935 2141) 29 May, 7.30pmReuse content