Billy Budd is based on a first class literary source – an unfinished story, Billy Budd, Foretopman by the American author Herman Melville, dated 1891. A very gloomy tale, based on real-life events, it is a powerful study in conflicting demands of justice, duty, passion and, in particular, of the consequences of jealousy. Billy Budd had its first production at London’s Royal Opera House on lst December 1951. Benjamin Britten himself conducted the première which got standing ovations. Captain Vere was sung by the legendary tenor and Britten’s partner Peter Pears. In 1966, when preparing the opera for television broadcast, the composer cut the score from four acts to two. And it is in the latter version that the opera is most often performed today.