Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten

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Benjamin Britten was born on 22nd November 1913 in Lowestoft and died on the 4th December 1976 in Aldeburgh. During his life, he made an incredible impact on the opera and theatrical world. His love of music came through his mother who was an amateur singer and later went on to study under Frank Bridge.

A ‘comic opera’ in three acts, the libretto to Albert Herring was produced by Eric John Crozier, who based it on the short story Le rosier de Madame Husson by Guy de Maupassant. It premiered on the 20th June 1947 in Glyndebourne, Sussex (UK). It is set in the small market town of Loxford in Suffolk, April and May 1900.

Characters:

Lady Billows, an autocrat (Soprano)

Florence Pike, her housekeeper (Soprano)

Miss Wordsworth, the head teacher of the church school (Soprano)

Mr Gedge, the vicar (Tenor)

Superintendent Budd, a policeman (Bass)

Sid, a butcher’s boy (Baritone)

Albert Herring, an assistant in the greengrocers (Tenor)

Nancy Walters, the daughter of the baker (Mezzo-Soprano)

Mrs Herring, the mother of Albert Herring (Mezzo-Soprano)

Emmy, Siss and Harry, pupils from Loxford School (3x Soprano)

Synopsis:

Act I

Scene 1: In the breakfast room at Lady Billow’s home, the local committee of dignitaries are meeting to choose the next May Queen. Unfortunately, they cannot choose because there is not a single virtuous girl in the village. Superintendent Budd suggests the boy Albert Herring, a chaste and virtuous lady who is completely under the thumb of his mother.

Scene 2: In Mrs Herring’s greengrocers, Albert is being teased by Sid, the butcher’s boy, who tells him about chasing girls and then flirts with Nancy. The committee then announce that Albert is to be the next May King. Albert tries to object but his mother intervenes as the prize is 25 sovereigns.

Act II

Scene 1: In the garden of the vicarage, Miss Wordsworth rehearses a welcome song for the May King. Sid spikes the lemonade set aside for Albert with a large measure of rum. Miss Wordsworth attempts to deliver a patriotic speech but gets her papers all messed up and so the speech comes out wrong. Albert is too shy to point out the mistakes and drinks his lemonade.

Scene 2: In his mother’s shop, Albert has return home tipsy and decides to rebel against his mother. Sid and Nancy drop by and Albert leaves the greengrocer’s.

Act III

Scene 1: In the shop the next day, everyone is worried about Albert. Someone brings in a wreath of orange-blossom crushed by a cart and Mrs Herring thinks her son is dead. Albert reappears and describes how he enjoyed drinking the night away. The local dignitaries renounce their May King and Sid and Nancy celebrate Albert’s liberation.

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