Billy Budd



Meet Billy. He's handsome, honest and good.
He's also doomed.


When young Billy is pressed into naval service, the recruit's youth and innocence arouse devotion from the crew. But one commanding officer's dark desires threaten to end Billy's career — for good.

Britten's masterpiece, based on the novella by Herman Melville, returns in a critically acclaimed production from Tony Award-winning director Michael Grandage.

Production New to San Francisco Opera

Meet the Cast

Sung in English with English supertitles

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Curious about the Opera?

Pre-Opera Talks

Perfect for newcomers, opera aficionados or anyone in between, our pre-opera talks provide an engaging 25-minute overview of the opera. Free to ticketholders, 55 minutes prior to curtain in the Orchestra section. Speaker: Corey Jamason

Opera Previews

Explore Billy Budd in a 90-minute presentation by Jonathan Khuner. Events held thorughout the Bay Area September 3-5 and cost varies by location. Learn more.

Open Curtain

Have you always wanted to see the inner workings of our stage? At select performances, our curtain is open during intermission and we narrate the live changeover. Date: Sunday, September 15.



Saturday’s opening performance…conjured up a mighty and tempestuous fervor in telling this tale.

— San Francisco Chronicle

[William Burden gave a] wondrous performance — robust but uncertain, full of both authority and doubt

— San Francisco Chronicle

Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn was an aptly terrifying Claggart

— San Francisco Chronicle

And in the title role, baritone John Chest made an impressive company debut with a performance of freshness and vitality.

— San Francisco Chronicle

The Opera Orchestra…did full justice to the inventiveness of Britten’s instrumental writing.

— San Francisco Chronicle

The men of the Opera Chorus, led by Ian Robertson, raised a lusty and well-modulated sound as the ship’s crew.

— San Francisco Chronicle



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From Page to Opera Stage

All the world loves a lover, but some ages love lovers more than others do. For example, when Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was first performed in the mid-1590s, it would not have been difficult to find members of the audience who took a distinctly jaundiced view of Romeo and Juliet’s defiance of family interests and honor in order to satisfy their own romantic desires. Read more.

Unfinished Work

The greatest art, Herman Melville believed, remains unfinished, awaiting posterity to unearth its secrets. Moby-Dick—“the draught of a draught,” he called it—proved his point. Virtually ignored on publication in 1851, it followed most of his novels in dropping out of print, a collective failure that led him to abandon fiction for poetry. Read more.

Setting Sail with Billy Budd

The late New Yorker critic Andrew Porter deemed Billy Budd “musically the richest and most arresting” of Benjamin Britten’s fifteen operas. It is also arguably his most provocative and challenging. While the novella Billy Budd became enshrined in the canon shortly after the belated publication of Melville’s unfinished text in 1924—boosted by a dramatic reappraisal of the author following a long period of neglect—the opera has taken more time to find a place in the repertory. Read more.



A young sailor's innocence arouses devotion among his shipmates, but a commanding officer's suspicions threaten to throw law and order into chaos.





Captain Vere William Burden
Billy Budd John Chest *
John Claggart Christian Van Horn
Mr. Redburn Philip Horst
Mr. Flint Wayne Tigges
Mr. Ratcliffe Christian Pursell
Red Whiskers Robert Brubaker
Novice Brenton Ryan
Maintop Christopher Colmenero *
Squeak Matthew O'Neill
Donald John Brancy
Bosun Edward Nelson
First Mate Sidney Outlaw *
Second Mate Kenneth Overton
Novice's Friend Eugene Villanueva
Dansker Philip Skinner
Midshipman Talinn Hatti *
Midshipman Marvin B. Valdez *
Midshipman Curtis Resnick *
Midshipman Lucas Willcuts *
Cabin Boy Benjamin Drever
Arthur Jones Hadleigh Adams


Sep 7, 12, 15, 17, 20, 22

Conductor Lawrence Renes
Production Michael Grandage *
Revival Stage Director Ian Rutherford
Production Designer Christopher Oram *
Original Lighting Designer Paule Constable
Revival Lighting Designer David Manion *
Fight Director Dave Maier
Chorus Director Ian Robertson

* San Francisco Opera debut

A Glyndebourne production, originally performed in the Glyndebourne Festival 2010.


Previous performances of Billy Budd can be found in our Archive


John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn; Bernard and Barbro Osher; Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem; and Joan and David Traitel.

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