Billy Budd was left incomplete at Melville’s death, and is subject to textual issues far more complex than the ones around A Clockwork Orange. I won’t attempt to do them justice here. The version of the text most commonly read today was prepared by Harrison Hayford and Merton Sealts, Jr., and first published in 1962. However, many of the adaptations that we will be looking at derive from earlier reconstructions of the text. One signal difference is the name of the ship: it is generally referred to as Indomitable in the earlier editions, but the 1962 edition has it as Bellipotent, which seems to have been Melville’s final intention.
There have been a number of TV performances of the Britten opera. Here is the BBC production from 1966:
Here is the English National Opera performance from 1988:
There is also a performance that was broadcast on PBS in 1998, but it is not available in any easily accessible format as far as I can tell.
There are assorted other clips of Britten performances online. Here is a clip of a German performance from 2007:
Here is a promo video for an audio recording of the opera that was released by EMI Classics in 2008:
Besides the Britten, there was a 1949 opera adaptation by Giorgio Ghedini, which received relatively little acclaim. The score is available at NYPL. I have not been able to locate any recordings of this opera.
Ustinov’s 1962 film adaptation was based on a 1949 play by Louis Coxe and Robert Chapman, which was published under the title Billy Budd, a play in three acts. It is available at NYPL. The play was originally shown on Broadway. Here is a photo that shows a large part of the set:
Here is a scan of the playbill:
The 1962 film is available on YouTube, unfortunately with poorly-formatted Spanish subtitles:
The trailer has a really enthusiastic narrator, and just about tells the whole story:
“General Motors Theatre”, aka “Encounter”, presented a live TV telecast of Billy Budd in 1955, starring William Shatner. I wish I could have found a full copy of this. A recording must exist somewhere, because there is a 7-minute clip of it online:
Beau Travail is a 1999 film by the French director Claire Denis, which retells the story in modern-day Djibouti, with characters in the French Foreign Legion. It emphasizes the homoerotic aspects of the story. The GC library doesn’t have it, but most of the other libraries in the area do.