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Britten Albert Herring

Florence Pike – Rosie Aldridge Lady Billows – Jennifer Rhys-Davies Miss Wordsworth – Anna-Clare Monk
Mr Gedge – Charles Johnston Mr Upfold – Richard Roberts Superintendent Budd – Tim Dawkins Sid – Charles Rice
Albert Herring – Mark Wilde Nancy – Martha Jones Mrs Herring – Clarissa Meek Emmy – Erin Hughes
Cis & maid – Emily-Jane Thomas Harry – Benedict Munden
Aurora Orchestra/Michael Rosewell
Christopher Rolls – Director Neil Irish – Designer Guy Hoare – Lighting Designer

English Touring Opera

Linbury Studio Theatre, London 7.45pm 6 October 2012

An interesting and enjoyable production of Albert Herring, one of our favourite and most often reviewed operas, with 23 links on Musical Pointers.

In London it has been a perennial for the college Opera Departments; my then small son was Harry at the Guildhall School, in its former premises on the Embankment, back when the Opera Department was under Vilém Tauský...

Neil Irish's see-through walls, designed for touring and easy assemblage anywhere *, probably serve better in some of ETO's numerous provincial destinations.

It took a little getting used to that the no-longer-stately home of Lady Billows was so very run down, and surprising that she still had two servants (c.f. Florence's heartfelt lament that she was so put upon "one pair of hands") - Emily-Jane Thomas, the schoolgirl Cis, doubled as the maid who was dusting endlessly when we came in, and continued doing so until the Queen of the May Appointment Committee met at precisely 10 o'clock.

Also, it was disconcerting at first to see all unoccupied members of the cast acting as shifters of the minimal scenery, but that was acceptable once we'd cottoned on to what was happening.

production images: Richard Hubert Smith

The musical values were in the reliable hands of Michael Rosewell and the crack Aurora Orchestra. Jennifer Rhys-Davies' Lady Billows may have seen better times but she was still truly dominant in the village community, and Mark Wilde was particularly effective as Albert, the put-upon mother's boy, becoming a real man after he'd kicked over the traces and had a night out. Mrs Herring was portrayed very sharply by Clarissa Meek and the team work was excellent.

The articulation by the low male voices of Superintendent Budd and by Sid was exemplary, but there is no way that the women, especially the high soprano Miss Wordsworth (originally Margaret Ritchie, Glyndebourne 1947) could get enough of their words across. Eric Crozier's libretto is so subtle that one cannot remember every detail. Without surtitles at The Linbury a lot of the best lines were lost: a bad mistake on ETO's part to not have them.

Albert Herring is a long 3-Act opera and had us home only just by midnight. An earlier start, 7.00 or 7.30, would have allowed for a second interval, for time to elapse between Albert's going off to town, until we join the search for his supposed corpse next day after he was missed. Even a five minutes symbolic pause with the house lights up (and to stretch your legs - most seats at the Linbury are cramped) would have helped. In this ETO production, the frantic search proceeded with the populace was already hurrying around still in darkness, contradicted by the libretto.

Peter Grahame Woolf

- - * Neil Irish’s set is framed by a lattice which suggests an animal’s cage, trapping the characters inside a set of social roles and proprieties. Outside, the world looks dark and unknown - - a performance which avoids none of the tricky questions it poses. Telegraph

- - Ensemble cast and neat production help Britten’s society comedy shine theartsdesk

- - ought not to be missed: brilliant, brilliant, brilliant ! - - They don’t come better than this: Robert Matthew-Walker