Albert Herring proved that Benjamin Britten could create comedies that were just as successful as his dramatic masterworks such as Peter Grimes and Billy Budd. A turn-of-the-last-century English village is shocked to discover that chaste young women are in perilously short supply, so bashful Albert is crowned “King of the May Festival,” only to launch a night of revelry that leaves his elders aghast and his chums impressed. Fast-rising young tenor Alek Shrader stars in the title role, joined by Christine Brewer as the imperious Lady Billows. This new production is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by Paul Curran.
Performance dates: July 31; August 4, 13, 18, 21, 25
Composed by Benjamin Britten
Sung in English
The action takes place in Loxford, a small town in East Suffolk.
Scene 1: The Home of Lady Billows—The aristocratic Lady Billows has decided to revive the local May Day Festival. She appoints a small committee to help identify a suitably chaste village girl to be crowned May Queen and offers 25 guineas as the prize. When the committee has its final meeting in April, the evidence against its nominees is universally damning—not one of the local girls still qualifies to win the prize. The Superintendent of Police comes to the rescue. If there are no qualified candidates for Queen, why not have a May King? Why not Albert Herring, whose timidity is universally known? The rest of the committee eventually agrees and Lady Billows seizes the opportunity to rebuke the tawdry Loxford girls. The committee sallies forth to deliver the good news to Albert and his mother.
Scene 2: The Herring’s Greengrocer Shop—Albert is working in the family’s shop, and is soon joined by Sid and Nancy, Sid’s new girlfriend. Their flirting makes Albert uncomfortable and they eventually leave. The committee arrives to announce Albert’s proposed coronation. He objects to the honor, but his mother overrules him, attracted by the 25 guinea award.
Act II May Day
Scene 1: The Vicarage garden—Nancy and Sid are making preparations for tea, while everyone else is at the Parish Church celebrating Albert's coronation. Sid persuades Nancy to join in a practical joke and they lace Albert’s lemonade with a liberal dose of rum. The guests arrive, bouquets are presented, speeches made, the prize delivered, and all join in a toast to the new May King. Albert takes a long swig from his glass and demands more lemonade. Everyone sits down to enjoy the repast.
Scene 2: The shop, later that evening—Albert comes home in a state of semi-drunken exhilaration, but hides when Sid and Nancy appear outside. They laugh about Albert’s appearance and personality, but soon forget about him as their flirtation continues. After they leave, Albert’s excitement and embarrassment suddenly create a wild desire to experience much more of life and he leaves for an evening of previously inexperienced pleasures. His mother returns and locks up the shop, thinking Albert is already in bed.
Act III The Morning After
Albert’s disappearance has thrown the town into an uproar. When his coronation wreath is discovered, having been crushed by a cart on the Ipswich Road, everyone assumes the worst. They begin a lamentation over Albert’s demise, only to be interrupted by the arrival of the profligate himself, disheveled but unbowed. His description of his evening of sin shocks the village elders, while Sid and Nancy are impressed. Albert flings his coronation wreath into the audience, secure in the knowledge he can stand up for himself in the future.
- Lady Billows - Christine Brewer
- Miss Wordsworth - Celena Shafer
- Florence Pike - Jill Grove
- Nancy - Kate Lindsey
- Mrs. Herring - Judith Christin
- Albert Herring - Alek Shrader
- Mayor - Mark Schowalter
- Sid - Joshua Hopkins
- Vicar - Jonathan Michie
- Budd - Dale Travis
- Harry, A Village Child - Richard Schmidt
- Conductor - Sir Andrew Davis
- Director - Paul Curran
- Scenic Designer - Kevin Knight
- Costume Designer - Kevin Knight
- Lighting Designer - Rick Fisher
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