Billy Budd Essay

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How do Britten and his librettist depict the male characters in Peter Grimes and Billy Budd? Examine the librettos and music of two title roles differ and what they have in common. Introduction Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Peter Grimes’ is based upon George Crabbe’s book ‘The Borough’. Britten and his librettist Montague Slater use music and the libretto to depict a character who’s at odds with society, whilst elaborating the misunderstood nature of the character, creating sympathy and concern from the audiences’ behalf. In comparison the character Billy Budd derived from the novel ‘Billy Budd’ by Herman Melville, is portrayed as naïve through the libretto by E. M Forster and Eric Corzier. The articulation of his speech impediment is represented as more than a physical condition and relates to his ignorance and innocence in the opera. Outsiders in Society Billy Budd is described as ‘such a fine specimen of the genus homo” , the handsome sailor is…show more content…
Britten utilise opposing keys to illustrate the isolation of Peter’s character, over an un-accompanied recitative texture. Additionally Britten links the two melodies together as they rise a minor ninth in unison on the line ‘my, your voice out of the pain’. The juxtaposition of the major triads (E-C-Db-E) creates a mirror like interrelationship of the leading notes in the iambic second and third sections of the sequence. These harmonic and textural features identify Peter’s loneliness and his wiliness to have a friend in the borough, whilst highlighting Peter’s segregation with the rest of society. A similar effect is also created in the prologue with frequent cadences in Peter’s music, however unlike Swallow’s cadencial progressions ending on the tonic, he has done it on the seventh of the supporting chord. This therefore highlights the divide between Peter and the borough through the contrast of

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