Music: Britten's Seventh

"Last night a masterpiece was born, and it will outlive the lot of us," declared London's Sunday Graphic. Not all the critics were that ecstatic, but London seemed to agree last week that Benjamin Britten's seventh opera, Billy Budd, was far & away his best.

For his first grand-scale opera since Peter Grimes, 38-year-old "Benjy" turned again to tragedy and the sea. He took his story from Herman Melville's novel of the British navy during the Napoleonic wars, and enlisted one of Britain's leading literary lights, Novelist E. M. Forster, to work on the libretto along with Eric Crozier, an old...

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