Billy Budd

Adaptations in other media

The stage

  • In 1951, Louis O. Coxe and Robert Chapman's 1949 stage adaptation, Billy Budd, opened on Broadway, winning both the Donaldson Awards and Outer Critics Circle Awards for best play.[20]
  • The best-known adaptation is the opera, Billy Budd, with a score by Benjamin Britten and a libretto by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier. It follows the earlier text of 1924. Since its premiere in December 1951, the opera has become a regular production at the Metropolitan Opera house in Manhattan, New York City. The libretto takes many creative liberties with elements of the novella's plot.
  • Giorgio Ghedini also composed an operatic version of the novella, which premiered in 1949. It has not been as widely performed as Britten's work.


  • Peter Ustinov produced, directed and worked on the script of his film version made in black and white in 1962, based on the stage play. It starred a young Terence Stamp as Billy Budd, and Ustinov took the role of Captain Vere. The movie also stars Robert Ryan as Claggart and David McCallum as Wyatt, Gunnery Officer.
  • Claire Denis' Beau Travail (1999), set in Djibouti, is loosely based on the novel.


  • General Motors Theatre presented a live telecast of Billy Budd in 1955, starring a young William Shatner as Billy Budd, with Douglas Campbell as Claggart, and Basil Rathbone as Captain Vere. Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" was included as background music.
  • Two different productions based on the opera were broadcast in 1988 and 1998.


  • In 2007, Focus on the Family adopted "Billy Budd, Sailor" as an audio drama for their Radio Theater program.[21]

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