Orpha Phelan’s Billy Budd for Opera North is “top notch”

24 October 2016

Orpha Phelan’s new Billy Budd for Opera North has attracted the critics’ attention. Referred to as “top notch”, “fierce and alert” and “visually striking”, the director’s second production for Opera North has also been praised for its effectiveness, clarity and strength. Billy Budd’s success follows Orpha’s recent production of Powder Her Face which won the Reumert Award, Denmark’s most prestigious performing arts prize, at the Royal Danish Opera last season. Later this season, Orpha’s new productions of Dead Man Walking and Fidelio will open at Royal Danish Opera and Longborough Festival Opera respectively.


Read the reviews for Billy Budd:

“Orpha Phelan’s attentive, top notch production brings this tremendous work into focus. The shattered wall is, as we move into extended flashback, hoisted to suggest, ingeniously, a sail…At the end, Billy memorably makes a virtue of simplicity, facing death, on an empty stage, with soaring stoicism.”
Kate Kellaway, The Observer ****

“A must-see new production of Billy Budd from Opera North, with a spine-tingling chorus and a gripping production. In a production as strong as Orpha Phelan’s new staging for Opera North, the formal structure amplifies the emotion, archetypes become living humans, and the emotional effect is overwhelming. A thoughtful, atmospheric and grippingly tense production.”
Richard Bratby, The Spectator

“Opera North’s new staging is the work of Irish director, Orpha Phelan, who lets Britten’s harrowing opera speak for itself. Phelan tells the story honestly and effectively.”
Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

“Irish director Orpha Phelan takes up the challenge for Opera North, creating a staging of Billy Budd that succeeds equally in realising its mystery and transcendence. ... The show is regularly visually striking.”
George Hall, The Stage ****

“Staged with potent skill by Orpha Phelan. The period style is traditional, the story well told. The relationships are very precisely geared by Phelan and entirely believable with no overacting. In fact it’s the best-cast performance of the opera I have seen, without a single less than immaculate performance.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Critics’ Circle

“Clarity and strength are the assets of Orpha Phelan’s new production for Opera North: no gimmicks, superb company work and three principals for the battle of good and evil all equal to their dramatic challenges at a level I haven’t seen for decades.”
David Nice, The Arts Desk

“More than merely claustrophobic…the production put the focus on issues of freedom, democracy and attitudes to dictatorship…sullen resentment at its most intense, yet it managed to be fierce and alert.”
Richard Wilcocks, backtrack ****


Billy Budd runs until 3 December 2016. Catch a glimpse in the trailer and listen to audience reactions here. Click here to book your tickets.

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