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James Inverne
Gramophone, September 2013

THE SPECIALIST’S GUIDE TO…Bassi profondi # 6

I said that profondi aren’t made, and this English policeman-turned-singer was indeed born to it…Van Allan is a baleful Claggart for ENO—and the scariest on record. No cracks of daylight penetrate his opaque, compact bass as he bides his time, plotting Billy’s destruction. His rage rarely bursts with full force, but when it does, it’s elemental. © 2013 Gramophone See complete list

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Tim Albery’s production of Billy Budd with Thomas Allen powerful in the title-role was one of the classic English National Opera presentations of the 1980s. This 1988 video version, made originally for BBC Television, with an introduction by Michael Berkeley, vividly captures the intense atmosphere. It is helped by the bare, stylized sets of Tom Cairns and Antony McDonald and by David Cunningham’s clever lighting. The performance under David Atherton is outstanding, with Philip Langridge as Captain Vere, disguised as E.M Forster in the solo prologue and epilogue sequences, bringing out the character’s scholarly side, interpreting the role in a strikingly different way from Peter Pears, for whom it was written, but just as magnetically. Thomas Allen may in 1988 have seemed rather old for the role of the innocent Billy, but the power not just of his singing but of his acting too, with the voice clear and fresh, makes his performance deeply moving. Just as striking is the venomous figure of Claggart, superbly taken here with terrifying intensity by Richard Van Allan is one of his very finest recorded performances. Barrie Gavin’s direction for video adds to the power of the performance with imaginative camerawork. The DVD is provided with plentiful index-points.

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