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Billy Budd is above all an ensemble piece, and the release by Virgin, with Daniel Harding conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, admirably succeeds in conveying the intensity of life on the man-of-war. The complexity of the claustrophobic shipboard community is apparent in the strongly etched characterization each singer brings to his part, no matter how small. Still, the effectiveness of the opera ultimately depends on the believability of the principals, Captain Vere, Claggart, and Billy Budd. Ian Bostridge ...

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