6 July 2015

A jolly Albert Herring at the Royal College of Music

The hardest part about going out to cultural things regularly is that they all take time and there is far more good stuff around than the time available (by a long long way) so there is always a lot of prioritisation that goes on. I've missed a lot of shows that I really wanted to see but that's life.

In the prioritisation game, seeing Albert Herring staged in the Royal College of Music's Britten Theatre was an easy winner. I had seen Albert Herring before, at Glyndebourne, and had been to the Britten Theatre before, to see Hogarth's Stages, so I was keen to see them come together.

My favourite vantage point for opera is from up a bit and so I went for a seat in the front row of the Upper Circle (A23 for £30.00). It was a good choice.

Albert Herring has a fairly slight plot (no girls are good enough to be May Queen so they choose a boy, Albert Herring, instead only for him to go seriously off the rails after his crowning party) so it was up to the production to expand on this to give the opera more substance and it did this very well. Three little examples make the point.

In the opening meeting to discuss the possible May Queens, each one was rejected by referring to large books suggesting that everybody in the little village was being monitored and recorded all the time. During the opening speeches in the village hall, one of the small boys watching caricatured the speakers with exaggerated gestures. A young man in a leather jacket is seen loitering for a while outside of the Herring shop before Albert disappears and when Albert returned he was wearing that jacket, adding a gay overtone that was not in the original story (it would not have been tolerated in 1947) but which was relevant to Britten's life.

There was much more about the production to enjoy and it was a joy from beginning to end. The singing was sweet and crystal clear too which meant that I could easily follow the story despite the lack of surtitles (admittedly it was sung in English!), and all the cast over-acted their parts to just the right level to make their characters amusing but not ridiculous.

Everything about the evening was thoroughly enjoyable and it was a jolly treat to be there.

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