by Willard Manus
followed Verdi with Benjamin Britten, whose comic chamber-opera ALBERT
HERRING was given a sprightly and vivacious production at the Music Center.
Composed in 1947, the opera pokes fun at the puritanism and hypocrisies
of a 19th century English market town. Lady Billows (Janis Kelly), the
rich grand-dame of the village, has decided to revive the local May Day
Festival whose queen was supposed to epitomize chastity and innocence.
When no local lass could fit the bill, a shy, timid young lad, Albert
(Alek Shrader) was picked in her place, much to his dismay, of course.
is peopled with raffish characters, such as the Mozartian housekeeper,
Florence Pike (Ronnita Nicole Miller, in a bravura performance); the Vicar
Gedge (Jonathan Michie), Miss Wordsworth, the head teacher (Stacey Tappan);
the town mayor (Robert McPherson); and the police chief (Richard Bernstein).
These stuffed shirts were counter-balanced by a trio of irreverent working-class
ragamuffins (Caleb Glickman, Erin Sanzero, Jamie-Rose Guarrine).
Conductor James Conlon and director Paul Curran combined to give the opera a delightfully blithe touch. Performances were splendid and Britten's 65-year-old score sounded fresh and appealing, especially when it was underscoring Albert's defiant coming of age as a man.
(Los Angeles Opera, 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-972-8001 or laopera.com)