Night and Day: Wednesday, April 06, 2005
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David Portillo (front center) sings for an English village in UNT’s ‘Albert Herring.’
PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Prince Albert

Albert Herring is the only comic opera Benjamin Britten ever wrote, and it makes you wish he’d written more. Based loosely on a story by Guy de Maupassant, it’s set in a turn-of-the-century English village called Loxford. The townspeople are about to hold their spring festival, but their self-appointed moral guardian, Lady Billows, is infuriated to discover that none of the local girls is virtuous enough to be crowned Queen of the May. In desperation, she and Loxford’s worthies appoint a King, a timid greengrocer’s son and mama’s boy named Albert.
Composed for an ensemble of 13 singers and a 12-piece chamber orchestra, this 1947 work has become a favorite of small companies. It’s full of delightful stuff — a neat little fugue by the village leaders (“We’ve made our own investigations”), tongue-in-cheek parodies of Britten’s more serious operas, a suitably horrible anthem led by the schoolteacher (“Glory to our new May King”), a joyfully bouncing arietta for Sid, the butcher’s assistant (“Girls mean spring six days a week”), and a love duet with cute whistling effects in the strings. The most outrageous touch is a climactic nine-part threnody (“In the midst of life is death”) that might work perfectly well as a straightforward funeral dirge, but in the context of the opera is screamingly funny. UNT is staging Albert Herring this week, and it’s a brilliant soap bubble of a piece.
Albert Herring runs Apr 8-17 at UNT, Winspear Hall, I-35E & Av D, Denton. Tickets are $15-20. Call 940-369-3782.


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