Theodore Uppman, the American baritone known primarily for his performance as the original Billy Budd in Benjamin Britten’s opera of the same name, died earlier this month at the age of 85. At the age of 31 in 1951, with his youthful looks, blonde hair and tanned, laborer’s body, he caught Britten’s eye. The composer and his producers had been engaged in a long search for a singer to play the young, innocent hero of the opera based on Herman Melville’s novella Billy Budd.
Uppman’s other major role for which he is remembered was that of Pelléas in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. He recorded almost nothing; however, a few years ago a CD of the original performance radio broadcast of Billy Budd was released on CD. Despite the inadequacy of the sound, it is possible to catch the greatness of this artist.
The New York Times obituary is here.