ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Starring: Graham Thompson, Chelsea Callaghan
Director: Theodore Baerg
By Dallas Curow
Director Theodore Baerg introduced this year’s UWO Opera production
of Albert Herring with an appropriate statement: “Ladies and Gentlemen,
thank you for braving Benjamin Britten”.
Britten’s comedic opera, Albert Herring, with its fast-paced vocalizing
and slow-paced plot, can be a challenge to enjoy. It takes a brave and attentive
audience willing to invest mental energy and actively listen to the music to
appreciate Britten’s apparent genius.
Albert Herring takes place in 1900 and tells the story of a mama’s boy
grocer whose inevitable rebellion slowly unfolds. The show begins with the
wealthy Mrs. Billows, who is seeking to find a suitable “May Queen,” a
young and virtuous girl, to whom she can award 25 pounds.
After realizing the town’s female population is seriously lacking in
virtue, Billows opts to find a “May King” instead. Young and innocent
Albert Herring is suggested as an appropriate candidate, and promptly wins.
A glass of spiked punch at his award ceremony begins the comedic demise of
As Lady Billows, Chelsea Callaghan immediately established the authority and
stuffiness of her character. In the opening scene, Callaghan sets the tone
of professionalism, which carries throughout the show.
Another notable performance includes Megan Nutall as schoolteacher Miss Wordsworth.
The three townsmen — Brenden Parsons, Willis Bote and Trevor Van den
Bussche — each played their roles competently and sang very well.
Graham Thompson, as Albert, proved that his vocal ability could stand alone,
singing a cappella and against clashing accompaniment.
Considering the musical score of the opera is basically a continuous recitative
(or talking/singing), it can be difficult to follow at times.
There are points when the performers seem to be jarred by the difficult entries
and rhythms of the music. For the most part though, they fare well and at worst,
only appear hesitant.
The prettiest song in the show is ironically, about death. The performers
join in a fleeting moment of pleasant vocal harmony when they believe Albert
It is understandable that UWO Opera chose to perform Albert Herring this year
as a part of a Benjamin Britten festival. Despite the less than melodic sounds
of the opera, the overwhelming talent of the cast and the smooth staging of
the production redeem what would be otherwise lacking.