"The Greatest Comic Opera of the Century"
Composer – Benjamin Britten
Librettist – Eric Cozier
Based on Le rosier de Madame Husson by Guy de Maupassant,
Two of the most distinguished and revered personalities in British opera, the legendary director John Copley, and the conductor Steuart Bedford, join forces to create a new production of Benjamin Britten’s hilarious but revolutionary comic masterpiece, Albert Herring.
This is one of Britten’s most daring scores, presaging the social upheavals of the 50s and 60s. Albert is not an angry young man, but in this opera we see him break free from the restraints of his society; over the course of one night, he throws convention out of the window, loses his virginity and discovers the delights and repercussions of binge-drinking! The only virgin in the village is reborn before us, and in uproarious style.
Described by the famous Russian pianist, Sviatoslav Richter, as ‘the greatest comic opera of the century’ this opera has repeatedly entertained and delighted audiences since its first performance in 1947. A comic masterpiece, with words by Eric Crozier – which are so witty that they could be a play in their own right – this hilarious opera by one of Britain’s greatest composers cannot fail to keep you on the edge of your seat and laughing out loud.
With a cast of familiar faces and a showcase for young rising stars, these performances will celebrate the best of British opera.
Recognised as one of today’s leading Britten experts as a result of his long collaboration with the composer, Steuart Bedford has conducted Britten’s operas in the most important houses including the world premiere of Death in Venice at Aldeburgh. He conducted an innovative production of Peter Grimes at the Aldeburgh Festival that has since been released in cinemas, on DVD and on CD to critical acclaim. In recent seasons, he conducted highly praised productions of Death in Venice at Garsington Opera, Don Giovanni at Vancouver Opera, Albert Herring with BBC Symphony Orchestra at London’s Barbican Centre, The Turn of the Screw in the first ever Britten opera presented by Opera Holland Park and returned to the Royal Academy of Music in a production of The Rape of Lucretia.
John Copley first appeared with the Royal Opera at the age of 15 as an actor and later became their Principal Resident Director. He has directed opera throughout the world during a career that spans over 50 years. John has worked with all the great singers and conductors and continues to share his expertise with young singers in his productions for the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.
Tim Reed has an international reputation as an opera and theatre designer. Opera includes the Paris Opera premiere of Docteur Faustus, L’Ormindo for Netherlands Opera, Verdi Macbeth in Madrid, La traviata, The Turn of the Screw and Hänsel und Gretel in Israel, and in Dublin, Cosi fan tutte, Der Rosenkavalier, Die Fledermaus and La traviata. He has worked extensively in Sweden designing L’elisir d’amore for Gothenburg Opera and The Coronation of Poppea and The Marriage of Figaro for Norrlands Opera in Umeå. Theatre work includes The York Mystery Cycle with Steven Pimlott, The Beaux’ Stratagem and The Field for the Abbey, Exit, Entrance and The Shadow of a Gunman for the Peacock, and Happy Days and The House of Bernarda Alba for the Gate Theatre, Dublin.
Kevin designs for opera, theatre and dance. Opera designs include: Salome, directed by Oliver Mears; Carmen (Nevill Holt, directed by internationally acclaimed choreographer Ashley Page OBE); L’enfant et Sorteleges (Royal Festival Hall, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Essa-Pekka Salonen); Macbeth, The Bear, The Flying Dutchman, Tosca, L’Elisir d’Amore (NI Opera/Opera Theatre Company); Agrippina (IYT); 5 I Act Opera’s,part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad (MAC Belfast); Turn of The Screw, (NI Opera & Buxton Festival 2012; Kolobov Novaya Theatre, Moscow 2014); Orpheus in the Underworld (NI Opera/Scottish Opera); L’Enfant et Les Sortlieges (Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, Dir. Irina Brown); Faramondo (Handel Festspiele, Göttingen, Dir. Paul Curran); La Boheme/Turn of the Screw (Nevill Holt, Dirs. Oliver Mears & Ashley Page) and Orango (Royal Festival Hall, Dir. Irina Brown, Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen).
Born in Northumberland, Richard Pinkstone graduated from the University of York, where he read Music and sang Damon Acis and Galatea and Tamino The Magic Flute. He is currently studying for a Masters in Vocal Performance at the Royal College of Music, where he is under the tutelage of Timothy Evans-Jones and Christopher Middleton. His studies at the Royal College of Music are supported by a Richard Carne Scholarship. At the Royal College of Music, he has sung The Witch Hänsel und Gretel, directed by Liam Steel, and Alfred Die Fledermaus, directed by John Copley.
Winner of the 1994 Kathleen Ferrier Award, Susan Gritton is one of the most accomplished lyric sopranos of her generation, acclaimed for her versatility in roles ranging from Handel and Mozart to Britten, Janacek and Strauss. Highlights in her 2016/17 season include Haydn’s The Creation (London Philharmonic Orchestra/Norrington), Elgar’s The Spirit of England (CBSO/Collon), Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 (Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg/Tabachnik) and her role debut as Lady Billows Albert Herring for the inaugural Grange Festival.
Praised for her “excellent, firm, and clear rich sound” British mezzo-soprano Clarissa Meek has performed throughout the UK, and Europe and in a broad range of repertoire.
Over the last decade she has been a regular at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, singing and covering roles such as Alisa Lucia di Lammermoor, Sphynx Oedipe, Xenia’s Nurse and Hostess of the Inn Boris Godunov, Virgie Anna Nicole, Zita and Frugola Il Trittico, Zweite Dame Die Zauberflöte, Lady Essex Gloriana, 2nd Squire and Heavenly Voice Parsifal. Previous seasons have seen her sing Mrs Herring Albert Herring, Frugola & Zita Il Trittico, Fox The Cunning Little Vixen, Zweite Dame Die Zauberflöte, and the Nurse King Priam (English Touring Opera); Sorceress Dido and Aeneas, Mezzo Soloist in Les Noces, and 2nd Maid Elektra (Opera North); Katisha The Mikado and Mrs Grose The Turn of the Screw (Grange Park Opera); Alcmene Die Liebe der Danae and Mayor’s Sister May Night (Garsington Opera); Fox The Cunning Little Vixen (Opera Theatre Company; Czech Republic); and Virtu/Pallade L’incoronazione di Poppea (De Nederlandse Opera; New York). Recipient of the Glyndebourne Erich Vietheer Memorial Award her further roles include Katharina Schratt in Mayerling (Royal Ballet, Covent Garden); the Hostess Bake for One Hour (English National Opera).
With a broad and varied repertoire the concert hall has always played an important part in Ms. Meek’s career, engagements have taken her throughout Britain and Europe, most notably as Xenia’s Nurse Boris Godunov (Royal Opera House/BBC Proms); Ursule Béatrice et Bénédict (BBC Symphony Orchestra/BBC Radio 3); Mendelssohn’s Elijah (Royal Scottish National Orchestra); Elgar’s Sea Pictures (Symphony Hall, Birmingham); The Dream of Gerontius (St Asaph’s Cathedral); Haydn’s Stabat Mater (Aldeburgh); Verdi’s Requiem (Paisley Abbey); Handel’s Messiah (Glyndebourne; Hannover), Berlioz Les Nuits d’Été (Flanders Symphony Orchestra); and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Bamberger Symphoniker).
From Newcastle upon Tyne, Ruth Jenkins-Róbertsson is an alumna of both Jesus College, University of Cambridge, and the Royal Academy of Music, London. She has been awarded the ARAM honour and the Pavarotti Prize from the RAM, the John Scott Award from the Scottish Opera Endowment Trust, Second Prize at the Hilde Zadek International Singing Competition, Second Prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Awards, First Prize at the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards and the Leonard Ingrams Award from Garsington Opera. Ruth’s operatic highlights include Zerlina in Sir Thomas Allen’s new production of Don Giovanni at Scottish Opera, Norina Don Pasquale with Scottish Opera, Queen of the Night The Magic Flute with New Zealand Opera, Northern Ireland Opera, Bath International Festival and Garsington Opera at West Green House Philidel King Arthur with Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn, Philine Mignon with NSO Productions, Lisette La Rondine with Iford Arts, Papagena The Magic Flute with Scottish Opera and Garsington Opera, Frasquita Carmen for Raymond Gubbay Ltd at the Royal Albert Hall, Fire and Nightingale L’Enfant et les Sortilèges with Samling at Sage Gateshead and Dew Fairy Hänsel und Gretel for Garsington Opera.
Kitty Whately trained at Chetham’s School of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Royal College of Music International Opera School. She won both the Kathleen Ferrier Award and the 59th Royal Overseas League Award in the same year, and was part of the prestigious Verbier Festival Academy where she appeared as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro and in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. Kitty was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2013-15, during which time she recorded her debut solo album This Other Eden, made recordings with the BBC orchestras, commissioned a new song cycle and made several appearances at the Proms.
Opera highlights include the world premiere of Vasco Mendonça’s The House Taken Over directed by Katie Mitchell, with performances in Antwerp, Strasbourg, Luxembourg, Bruges and Lisbon; Rosina Il barbiere di Siviglia and Stewardess in Jonathan Dove’s Flight (Opera Holland Park); Hermia A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bergen National Opera); Kate Owen Wingrave (Opéra National de Lorraine); Dorabella Cosi fan tutte (English Touring Opera) and Ippolita / Pallade in Cavalli’s Elena in Montpellier and Versailles for the Aix-en-Provence Festival; and Eurydice Orfeo with English National Opera at Bristol Old Vic theatre.
Kitty is in high demand as a concert artist and has given performances with most of the UK’s major orchestras, including Duruflé’s Requiem and Mozart’s Requiem (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), Bach’s B Minor Mass (Royal Northern Sinfonia and Scottish Chamber Orchestra), Beethoven’s Mass in C Major (Philharmonia Orchestra), Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Ulster Orchestra), Haydn’s Nelson Mass (Britten Sinfonia on tour in Spain and the Netherlands), Bach’s Magnificat (Britten Sinfonia and Choir of King’s College Cambridge). Further performances include Elgar Dream of Gerontius at St John’s Smith Square and Handel Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall. Kitty has given recitals at Wigmore Hall, Leighton House, and the Edinburgh, Oxford Lieder, Leeds Lieder and Buxton festivals, working regularly with renowned accompanists Roger Vignoles, Graham Johnson, Malcolm Martineau, Gary Matthewman, James Baillieu and Joseph Middleton. She recently premiered Jonathan Dove’s song cycle Nights Not Spent Alone at the Cheltenham Festival.
Kitty made her BBC Proms debut in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Suite from Act II of Caroline Mathilde, and also appeared in a Chamber Music Prom singing the music of Stephen Sondheim, and as Nancy in a concert performance of Britten’s Albert Herring. Her frequent performances with the BBC orchestras include De Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat (BBC National Orchestra of Wales). Her recordings include Ravel’s Sheherezade with BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Canteloube’s Songs of the Auvergne with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and songs by Rogers & Hammerstein, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter with BBC Concert Orchestra.
This season, Kitty performs with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, appears in Mozart’s Requiem at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, and gives recitals at Oxford Lieder Festival and Bedford Music Club. She also appears as Nancy Albert Herring for The Grange Festival; Don Ettore La Canterina with Classical Opera at the Eisenstadt Haydn Festival and at Wigmore Hall; and Hermia A Midsummer Night’s Dream on tour with the Aix-en-Provence Festival in Beijing.
Born in London, Timothy Nelson gained a degree in Physiology from Cardiff University. In 2015, he graduated from the Royal College of Music International Opera School, where he studied with Peter Savidge and was awarded the McCulloch Prize for Opera. He was the winner of the Bruce Millar Gulliver Prize, the RCM Joan Chissell Schumann Competition and the Gerald Moore Award Singers Prize, is a Jerwood Young Artist at the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival and is a recipient of an Independent Opera at Postgraduate Voice Fellowship. His studies were generously supported by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and the HR Taylor Trust.
Winner of Second Prize at the 2008 Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Competition, Alexander Robin Baker graduated from the National Opera Studio in Summer 2012. Born in Epsom, Surrey, he was a Music Scholar at the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, graduated in July 2007 B.Mus. with first-class honours from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating from the Post Graduate Vocal Studies Course under the tuition of David Pollard. He made his debut with English National Opera as Fiorello The Barber of Seville and has returned as Gizmo The Way Back Home, Yamadori Madam Butterfly, Happy The Girl of the Golden West and Samuel The Pirates of Penzance.
Bass-baritone Andri Björn Róbertsson hails from Reykjavik in Iceland. Having completed a postgraduate course and opera course at the Royal Academy of Music in London, he joined the National Opera Studio as a trainee in September 2013. He was a member of the International Opera Studio in Zürich, Switzerland for the 2014/15 season where his roles included Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte. He was named a HSBC Academy Laureate of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence for 2014 following his performance in Trauernacht – a staged performance based on J.S. Bach’s sacred cantata. This season, he joins ENO’s Harewood Artists and made his debut with the company this season as Angelotti in Tosca. Andri is also a keen recitalist, having performed at the Oxford Lieder Festival, Festival d’Aix en Provence and Icelandic Opera.
Born in Lancashire of Irish descent, Kathleen Wilkinson studied at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she won a Peter Moores Foundation Scholarship and the Webster Booth Competition. She made her debut at the Royal Opera, London, as She-Ancient The Midsummer Marriage, and has returned as Anna Maria Stuarda, Brigitta Die tote Stadt, Third Maid Elektra, Mother Goose The Rake’s Progress and Filippyevna Eugene Onegin.
Adrian is one of Britain’s leading operatic character tenors, long established on the stages of Covent Garden, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival and Garsington Festival and has made guest appearances at La Scala, Milan, Geneva Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Nederlandse Reisopera, Aix en Provence Festival and has sung in concert with all the leading orchestras of the UK and abroad. Over his career Adrian has long established a specific relationship with the music of Britten and Elgar for which he is much in demand on both the concert platform and recording studio.
Born in Surrey, Emily studied at the Royal Academy of Music, first achieving an MA with distinction and most recently a DipRAM from the prestigious Royal Academy Opera, where she learned with Elizabeth Ritchie. Opera roles include Strawberry Seller Death in Venice (Garsington Opera under Steuart Bedford), Anne Trulove The Rake’s Progress, La Fée Cendrillon, Lucia The Rape of Lucretia, Suor Genovieffa Suor Angelica (Royal Academy Opera), Fido Paul Bunyan (British Youth Opera).
Edinburgh-born Soprano Catriona Hewitson, started at the City of Edinburgh Music School, and then received a degree from the RNCM and a Masters from the RCM studying with Janis Kelly. Most recently graduate of the ENO Opera works training programme. She has won several prizes including the Chris Petty English Song Competition, the Cuthbert Smith Prize and was a finalist at the Wigmore Hall in the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards.
Opera highlights include cover Sophie Werther, cover Yniold Pelléas et Mélisande (ETO), Monica The Medium, Musetta La Boheme (Magnetic Opera), Ida Die Fledermaus, Emmie Albert Herring (RCMIOS), Amore Orfeo ed Euridice, Harry Albert Herring (RNCM), cover First Young Tree Paul Bunyan (BYO), Ensemble Giove in Argo (London Handel Festival/RCMIOS), chorus Iris, La Boheme and Queen of Spades (OHP). Highlights in concert include performing at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Bridgewater Hall and touring with the Ulster Orchestra.
In September this year, Catriona will be returning to the RCM International Opera School to continue her studies. Catriona was an RCM Scholar supported by the Emma Rose Memorial Award and has also been generously supported by the Hope Scott Trust, James Caird Travelling Fund, Cross Trust and PS.
Loxford, a fictional small market town in Suffolk. It is spring 1900, with the May Day Festival fast approaching.
Lady Billows has a significant responsibility on her hands. She must decide on who to crown as the May Queen; an essential part of the May Day celebrations. The individual selected must, however, be worthy of the title and be the very emblem of good behaviour and virtue. The trouble she faces is that each girl suggested comes with a catalogue of complications or a seedy past, and there is not one suitable candidate. The local dignitaries can see that Lady Billows is on the verge of giving up, so they throw a new idea into the ring. Instead of a May Queen why not have a May King. The young man suggested is Albert Herring, a hard worker, a respectful son with never a bad word to say about anyone who consistently exhibits exquisite behaviour. The decision is made. Together they head to the Greengrocers to inform Albert and his mother of the good news.
Albert is hard at work at the Greengrocer’s but is interrupted by Sid, the Butcher’s boy. Sid teases and mocks Albert for being under his mother’s thumb. Nancy, the Baker’s daughter, enters and Sid flirts with her right under Albert’s nose. Albert cannot help but watch and wonder what life would be like if he was more adventurous and less cautious. Bursting in upon the scene comes Lady Billows and the committee announcing that Albert has been elected as May King. Albert recoils from this title but is pressured to accept it by his mother who has her eye on the 25-sovereign reward attached to winning the title.
A marquee has been set up in the vicarage gardens to celebrate the crowning of the May King. Sid and Nancy who are helping with the preparations decide to trick Albert into drinking some alcohol by slipping rum into his lemonade. At the party, Albert is called to deliver a speech but the timid, meek man is tongue-tied and only manages an unimpressive few words. He reaches for his drink and after unknowingly consuming the alcohol he has a fit of hiccups and suddenly finds a new confidence.
Tipsy Albert returns to his mother’s greengrocers. He overhears Sid and Nancy talking about him in the street and discovers that they put rum in his drink. They mock him and pity him, calling him the ‘village simpleton’. This is all too much for the frustrated Albert who decides to take his prize money and to venture off alone for a night on the town. Mrs. Herring returns home and is worried when she realises that Albert is not there.
The following afternoon arrives and Albert, the May King, has still not come home. Members of the village gather in Mrs. Herrings shop, concerned about where Albert has gone. When the wreath of orange blossoms with which Albert was crowned is found, crushed under a cart, Mrs. Herring is devastated and fears the worst. Grief stricken, they all join together to mourn the loss of Albert. Just at that moment, Albert walks through the door and startles them all. He announces to them that he has been out drinking, getting into fights, and having a night like he has never had before. He makes sure to thank the committee for funding this night out. Appalled by this revelation, the committee strip him of his title as May King. Albert blames his mother for being too protective of him, reining him to the point where he simply had to break free. The committee scolds him, but Sid and Nancy watch on enjoying Albert’s new found liberation. Albert returns to work a changed and happier man.
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