Apt timing for comic opera’s first night at Buxton Festival

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Benjamin Britten’s comic opera Albert Herring was ideal Saturday night entertainment for the opera festival on the day of the Buxton Carnival.

His creation was written in 1947 and is a parody of 1940s small town values, habits and deference. Gossip, reported to the local worthies makes them

unable to find a local girl virtuous enough to be May Queen. So, at the behest of Lady Billows, they decide upon the widowed grocer’s simple son as May

King. He is crowned, celebrated and presented with a purse of guineas and then he kicks over the traces. Or does he?

We are left guessing. We are also left guessing as to the nature of the silent stranger who glides through everyscene.

This is a good production in every respect with 1940s sets and costumes. The libretto by Eric Crozier is a very funny patchwork of clichés and misquotations

and the cast do it justice.

The music is full of parodies too and requires real flexibility from the singers. Yvonne Howard is particularly impressive as Lady Billows.

Albert Herring is a clever period piece with music parodying that period andmusic that still feels modern. That period is now history and contemporary audiences may not identify the references in the music and the text. Yet, like the work of Gilbert and Sullivan which is referenced in the score, Britten’s

music and humour will ensure that this period piece endures.

Albert Herring continues its run at Buxton Opera House on July 12, 15, 18 and 22.