Albert Herring | Benjamin Britten | Clonter Opera | Michael McCaffery

Britten’s operatic comedy, written in 1947 with witty English libretto by Eric Crozier was freely adapted from a short story of stifling village life and rebellion “Le rosier de Madame Husson” by Guy de Maupassant.

Director Michael McCaffery and conductor Philip Sunderland join forces with set and costume designer Bettina John and lighting designer Steven Benson to create a new production of Benjamin Britten’s hilarious portrait of English village life, which celebrates the best of British opera and offers the best possible showcase for rising stars.

Setting

Set in a fictitious Suffolk village of Loxley,Albert Herring is an obedient son who, in the lack of any virtuous female candidates for May Queen, gets crowned May King instead, and after drinking rum-laced lemonade escapes for a night of revelry and rebellion. The May coronation selection committee – the local Superintendent, the Mayor, the teacher and vicar – all terrorised by the autocratic local grandee Lady Billows. The teasing and flirtations of courting couple Nancy and butcher’s boy Sid fuel Albert’s determination to break free.

Photographs by James Russel and Andrew Billington

Bit of history

The World premiere of Albert Herring was mounted by the English Opera Group at Glyndebourne on 20 June 1947, conducted by Benjamin Britten with the idea to establish a permanent ensemble dedicated to creating and developing English opera.

Britten was in his thirties when he set this classic coming of age story to music on his return from America in 1946. Humour highlights the prejudice, intolerance and conformities of class within small-town England in the 1940s and its suffocation of young people needing to break free and find themselves. Director Giles Havergal (Opera North) said of the piece, “We associate the breaking out of youth with the 50s and Look Back in Anger, but it was already in the air. People like Britten knew what was going to happen.”

Brittens’ score for Albert Herring is said to contain some of his mostmoving,honest and staggeringly inventive music. Peter Hall described the moment near the end of the piece when everyone briefly believes Albert has died to be “one of the most shatteringly emotional bits of music in all opera”. The brilliant threnody is a parody of a great operatic outpouring of grief. Britten’s real genius is his seamless melody, the lyricism of the score and the wit of the music, which is genuinely funny in itself.

“A dazzling operatic comedy in the great tradition of Rossini and Donizetti. A triumphant combination of words and music, creating the best operatic comedy of the last century” – Director Michael McCaffery

Reviews

★★★★ from Robert Beale from the Theatre Reviews North

Crew

Evelien Van Camp – Costume Supervisor

Nina Schmidl – Costume Assistant

Linda Savini – Assistant costume maker

Melody Wright – Stage Manager

Izzy Thurston – Deputy Stage Manager

Olivia Middleweek – Assistant Stage Manager

Olivia Stone – Assistant Stage Manager

Oliver Rock – Set Builder

Isabel Rock – Set Painter