English National Opera

While there are no weak links, there are several standout performances, and top of any list must be the galvanising force of Andrew Litton. A conductor who would have been ideal as ENO's music director but who was turned down for that position (is there any chance of reversing that decision?), Litton injects much-needed energy into the Coliseum pit. His command of the score is complete and gripping; he is alert to the unique tone-colour that stems from the all-male cast [of Billy Budd / English National Opera]; he shapes all the picturesque flurries and builds them into the bigger canvas; and he brings out the spiky rhythms with a sure hand. And the company responds: the big choral set-pieces are shattering in their impact.

— John Allison, The Sunday Telegraph

Andrew Litton lifts the house orchestra to one of its finest recent performances, wringing every subtly nuanced detail from Britten's artful, atmospheric score (ENO's Billy Budd). 

— Anthony Holden, The Observer

...Andrew Litton's command of the score (ENO's Billy Budd) is faultless

— Anna Picard, Independent on Sunday

It was remarkable that ENO's new production of Britten's all-male opera Billy Budd took to the Coliseum stage at all last weekend, given the company's recent managerial disasters. That it turned out to be a runaway success, superbly sung, played and conducted, was amazing...It contains some of his finest music and is superbly played by ENO's orchestra, and conducted by brilliant young American Andrew Litton...

— David Fingleton, Sunday Express

The American Andrew Litton was another name considered for ENO's top musical post. If his thrilling conducting of Billy Budd at the Coliseum last weekend is anything to go by, ENO missed an opportunity in not appointing him. It's a long time since I have heard the chorus, orchestra and ensemble clearly operating as a company and close to the form it regularly achieved under Mark Elder. Given the evidently poisonous atmosphere in the building, that is no mean feat on Litton's part. All of his previous ENO appearances, in Verdi's Falstaff (1994), Strauss's Salome (1996) and Verdi's A Masked Ball (2002), have suggested a conductor capable of inspiring the company. I don't think I have heard an orchestrally finer account of Britten's score in the theatre -the sequence of chords describing Captain Vere's conflicting emotions as he prepares to break the death sentence to the hapless Billy was gut-wrenchingly upsetting - and the male chorus sounded in finer fettle than for many a season. Thanks to Litton, Keenlyside and Tomlinson, ENO has another box-office winner on its hands. The three performances this week really shouldn't be missed.

— Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, London

The real hero of Britten's Billy Budd is the orchestra. Under conductor Andrew Litton, their force and gravity was verwhelming. Indeed, the thrilling intensity with which he and the ENO orchestra dispatched it makes one hope that he was at least offered the job of music director when Paul Daniel resigned...Go for the music and Andrew Litton's marvellous realisation of it.

— Edward Seckerson, The Independent

In one of those ironies that add spice to the ENO story, conducting this first production since the artistic director's sudden departure is Andrew Litton, who was passed over in favor of Oleg Caetani as new music director. Litton has the measure of this score (Billy Budd) as if it is in his bloodstream, the ENO orchestra responding with some superb playing, the woodwind particularly rewarding.

— Keith Clarke, MusicalAmerica.com

Andrew Litton conducts a performance of beautifully calibrated energy, underlining the quality of ENO's [Billy Budd] ensemble. 

— Andrew Clark, The Financial Times

Litton interprets Britten's grandest score (Billy Budd) with a keen ear for its shimmering maritime beauty and eerie ambiguities of tone, as well as keeping a firm grip on the structures of both acts. He also showed an instinct, sadly rare among opera conductors, for keeping the orchestral volume down when singers need to get significant text across. The big guns were only fired during the interludes and choral scenes, which proved absolutely thrilling. For [the ENO chorus], and for Keenlyside and Litton, it's a performance well worth catching. 

— Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

Andrew Litton's conducting is thrilling [ENO's Billy Budd]

— Tim Ashley, The Guardian

It's electrifying. So, too, is the orchestra, under Andrew Litton's impassioned direction (of Billy Budd)...the most accomplished playing to come from the ENO pit all season; not just thunderously melodramatic, but also a superb delineation of a score with dark, complex and sometimes subliminal cross-references. And in 150 minutes, the rapport between pit and singers never falters. 

— Richard Morrison, The Times, London

All this was wreathed in some of the most idiomatic Verdian playing I've heard from the ENO orchestra, expertly directed by Andrew Litton.

— Ashutosh Khandekar, Opera Now

Litton knows exactly what he's doing and why, and the results are riveting from start to finish (Verdi's Ballo in Machera). It's not just the fine Italianate sense of phrasing or his ability to draw a startlingly broad range of colors from the orchestra; what's most exciting about Litton's conducting is how savagely modern he makes the piece sound. The bleak loneliness, the violence, biting satire and horrible grief that Litton draws from Verdi's dark score are far more shocking, ultimately, than any of Bieito's gags. But it's together that the two men succeed: with Litton communicating the emotional truth of the piece, Bieito's production gains immensely in power - and this time, Bieito works with rather than against the composer, giving his characters the time and space to sing, allowing the music to bloom.

— Shirley Apthorp, Andante

Having Andrew Litton in the pit is a bonus; his conducting is stylish and viscerally exciting. All in all, a vital new production.

— Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Andrew Litton drew better playing from the orchestra than we have heard for many a month, and caught precisely the shifting moods of Verdi's score, its elegance, wit and passion ,all sadly missing on stage. The chorus...sand wonderfully, the final lament was quite overwhelming.

— Rodney Milnes, The Times, London

But even if one hated the overall concept (Beito's production of Verdi's Ballo in Maschera), the superb quality of the singing, playing and acting transcends any such objections. Throughout, the singers and the orchestra (brilliantly conducted by Andrew Litton) are in perfect balance.

— Isabel Wolff, Online Review London

Litton obtained a richly detailed, exciting and lubricious performance of the orchestral score (of Strauss' Salome).

— Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph

The most distinguished aspect of the production (of Strauss' Salome), however, was the conducting of Andrew Litton, who demonstrated that ENO still has a top-flight orchestra when a quality baton-wielder is in the pit.

— Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, London

And what struck one at the Coliseum was the quality, the sheer relish of the orchestral playing. Under the direction of the young American conductor Andrew Litton, even the Dance of the Seven Veils — those ten minutes of tacky, sub-oriental shlock — came across as integral and almost important.

— Dermot Clinch, Independent on Sunday

No such uncertainties linger in the orchestra pit. Andrew Litton, making a return visit to the ENO, knows exactly how he wants the music to go and has the wherewithal to get the orchestra to deliver it with panache.

— Richard Fairman, The Financial Times

The conducting of Andrew Litton binds the action with harrowing force. This is the English National Opera at its very, very best, vividly focused, dramatically direct and artfully cruel — not to be missed.

— Alexander Waugh, Evening Standard