Budden wrote three volumes about Verdi's operas (published in 1973, 1978 and 1981) and a single-volume biography of the composer (1982), followed in 2002 by one of Puccini, all translated into German and/or Italian.
He was also a longtime radio producer at the BBC, where he began working in 1956. In 1970 he became chief producer of its opera broadcasts, offering his insight and wit during broadcast intermissions of Verdi operas.
Born in Hoylake (near Liverpool), Budden went to Queen's College, Oxford, in 1942; following service in the Friends Ambulance Unit on the Continent during World War II, he graduated with a classics degree in 1948.
He spent the next three years as a student at the Royal College of Music, studying piano with Thornton Lofthouse and bassoon with Archie Camden.
After the RCM he went to the BBC, starting out as a clerk and later supplying notes for the music announcers. He earned a Bachelor of Music while studying part time at Trinity College of Music in London.
He worked his way up in the BBC as music producer (1956-70) and then chief producer of opera (1970-76). In 1983 he took early retirement and went to live in Florence, where, according to The Guardian, he thought up future projects, wrote articles and spoke at musicological conferences in both English and Italian.
Budden was a coach and repetiteur at the University of California for a seminar on the first version of La forza del destino in 1980, a role he also undertook at Modena in 1984 for a seminar on the critical edition of Ernani.
The Guardian writes that "while he could be critical of sloppy or inadequate work, Julian was never bitchy, rare in that musicological world."