Men kill each other in the heat of passion, as we may not very usefully describe Billy Budd's slaying of John Claggart
; men kill each other in the heat of battle, not necessarily having any knowledge of each other except as objects of martial action and not intending any particular death.
It is immediately obvious, to a reader of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, that a man called Edward Fairfax Vere will be nobly inclined and that one called Claggart
is likely to be a brute.
This prompts an argument among Maxim's friends about whether Captain Vere is justified in his execution of the titular Billy (a saintly sailor who blindly strikes and accidentally kills Claggart
, the ship's sinister master-at-arms).
The cast worked heroically, with Brindley Sherratt a Hagen-like Claggart
and Alan Oke visibly tormented as Captain Vere.
Brindley Sherratt's Claggart
emphasized anger rather than the sinister side of the depraved master-at-arms, and was somewhat lacking in destructive power.
An absolute high spot comes when Claggart
, the master-at-arms, sings with sonorous intensity of a desire for destruction, clearly based on the impossible desires aroused by Billy, which is so instinctive that he cannot explain it.
This inspires the hatred of the master at arms, John Claggart
, whose attempts to disgrace Billy speedily bring tragedy for both of them.
Billy explains that he struck Claggart
with a fatal blow when the latter falsely accused Billy of mutiny, because Billy could not speak to deny the charge.
With his powerful bass voice, Phillip Ens gives a sinister, compelling portrayal of the malevolent master-at-arms, John Claggart
, and as Captain Vere, tenor John Mark Ainsley embodies the opera's conflicted protagonist.
That was Philip Langridge as Vere, Dwayne Croft was Billy, and Jim Morris was Claggart
. He just did it again with me.