Sunday, May 7, 2023

opera review: Albert Herring

Pocket Opera is a small-scale local company known for putting on productions in English translations prepared for them, excellently written and (when appropriate) witty. This was a rare appearance in their repertoire of an opera originally written in English, and the first ever time it was by Benjamin Britten.

Albert Herring is supposed to be Britten's comic opera. It has a comic premise. In a small town in Suffolk (of course, because this is Britten) in Victorian times, shy Albert is elected King of the May because he's so dutiful and well-behaved. But his friends Sid and Nancy (no relation to the other Sid and Nancy) ply him with rum and he goes out and has a wild old time, and he comes back to tell off his repressive mother.

But in the meantime, there's a long stretch of the opera in which everybody thinks Albert is dead, and that's not comic at all, nor is most of the rest of the opera nor is the music with which Britten composed it. I had a hard time registering this as comic in the ordinary meaning of the word, or indeed "charming and witty" which the program said it is.

This is the second Britten opera I've seen all the way through (the first was The Rape of Lucretia). It was not an uninteresting experience nor an ineptly-composed work, but I'm not minded to increase my collection.

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