Saturday 8 November 2014

Albert Herring in Highgate

Peter Pears and Joan Cross in the 1947 English Opera Group production of Britten's Albert Herring at Glyndebourne
Peter Pears and Joan Cross
in the 1947 English Opera Group production at Glyndebourne
Hampstead Garden Opera (HGO) returns on 14 November 2014 with a new production, Britten's Albert Herring. The performances, at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate, run until 23 November 2014. Joe Austin directs with Oliver-John Ruthven, musical director of Hampstead Garden Opera, conducting. Austin directed HGO's production of Cavalli's La Calisto last year. HGO aims to give opportunities for young singers at the beginning of their career. Rather impressively the 13 named roles in the opera are all being double cast and you can learn more about the cast on HGO's website.

Though Albert Herring is routinely performed in larger opera houses, the work was in fact Britten's second chamber opera. Written, like its predecessor The Rape of Lucretia, for the fledgling English Opera Group the work was intended to be a small scale piece with an instrumental ensemble accompaniment (single strings and woodwind, trumpet, harp and percussion, conducted from the piano). The piece can be something of a challenge for young performers as many of the characters are middle aged, but it will certainly be interesting to see what Ruthven, Austen and their cast do.

There is always one fascinating wrinkle in a new staging of the work, what Albert was actually doing during his night out and more particularly the gender of his sexual partner. You'll have to go along to Highgate to find out.

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