2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
another truimph for Naxos,
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This review is from: Britten: Albert Herring (Bedford, Northern Sinfonia, Gillett, Palmer) (Audio CD)
This delightful work by Britten has him adeptly satirising and celebrating parochial rural England simultaneously. This is a comic pastoral piece It is set in the early 20th C in a small Suffolk village. This community is dominated by Lady Billows and her companion, two old spinsters suffering serious penis envy which they sublimate by minding everyone else’s moral business and tyrannising them with their failings. Heading the committee for choosing the Queen of the May these two decide that none of the village trollops live up to their exacting moral standards so instead of a “Queen” they choose the shy timid Albert son of the widowed village greengrocer, to be “King of the May”. Much to Albert's mortification he is crowned in virgin white and receives a purse of money. But his lemonade is spiked (here Britten quotes Tristan) and intoxicated Albert vanishes only to return the following day after a night of dissolution (much to everyone's horror and outrage) but returns an enlightened wiser and stronger man. Eric Crosier adapted the libretto from a story by Guy de Maupassant and accomplishes it with witty rhymes in the process. The score is highly inventive and colourful- though post Grimes this is still a fairly early work (premiered 1947) and clearly hints at A Midsummers Night's Dream still to come. It also echoes the Serenade - the horn playing a highly prominent and effective part in the orchestration. This excellent recording conducted by the Britten aficionado Steuart Bedford was made in the late nineties and contains some of the cream of singers from the English operatic Stage: Josephine Barstow and Felicity Palmer, two of the finest operatic actresses of their time, pair up as Lady Billows and her companion. Della Jones is a lovely rich toned Mrs Herring, and Robert Lloyd as Superintendent Budd is delicious. Gerard Finley as Sid also deserves high praise. My one reservation is Christopher Gillet as Albert. I would have liked a lighter, sweeter, more firm-toned voice, however, though his is the title role this doesn't matter that much. The role is not that big; Albert has one scene in act I, one in act II and one in act III, Albert Herring features the characters around him far more than it focus in on him. Anyway Gillet is quite adequate, The opera is on 2 CDs and comes with a complete libretto (though almost unneeded since the clarity of the diction is so good you can almost follow the plot without it). A bargain at any price..