Review: Albert Herring

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Giles Havergal’s new production of Benjamin Britten’s gentle comedy for Opera North, is a masterpiece of invention and ingenuity for his quintessential view of rural life in the England of yesteryear.

It is a perfectly thought-through experiment of ‘opera in the round’, with the audience almost encircling the singers, the various sets magically growing out of the packing cases that open the performance. The village of Loxford, unable to find in its midst an untarnished young lady for their May Queen, drop upon the idea of having a May King in the shape of Albert, a young man too shy to have been anything other than virtuous. But after drinking spiked lemonade at the May Day party, he becomes anything but virtuous – or does he?

The cast overall is the finest we have seen in UK productions over the past thirty years, Alexander Sprague’s wonderfully characterised Albert being, both vocally and visually, little short of ideal, and he shares the ability of impeccable diction with Marc Callahan’s Sid, a young singer with massive potential. It is a large cast, Josephine Barstow presenting a formidable Lady Billows and Katie Bray the delightfully charming young Nancy.

Further performances 18, 19, 21, 23, 24 & 25 May.

Howard Assembly Room