Albert Herring, Benjamin Britten’s intricate and witty opera, will open the 2022-23 University Opera season at UW–Madison following the success of last season’s Two Remain (Out of Darkness) by Jake Heggie and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. One of Britten’s few comedic operas, Albert Herring explores the themes of lost innocence, social stratification, Victorian morality, and the coming of age. Three performances will be presented at Music Hall on the UW–Madison campus: November 18 at 7:30 pm, November 20 at 2 pm, and November 22 at 7:30 pm. The Mead Witter School of Music’s Director of Orchestral Activities, Oriol Sans, will conduct a chamber ensemble comprised of members of the UW–Madison Symphony, and Karen K. Bishop Director of Opera, David Ronis, will direct the production.
Britten’s score for Albert Herring is equally as complex and beautiful as his most serious operas and the libretto by Eric Crozier inspires some of his most sensitive musical writing. The piece displays a good measure of levity as it tells a story as old as time, contrasting the values of older and younger generations. With the town’s May Day Festival approaching, Lady Billows is scandalized and shocked by the lack of moral virtue in the young women of East Suffolk and is left with no choice but to appoint a King of the May rather than a May Queen. Her committee of advisors suggests the young Albert whom they don’t view as particularly bright but is perceived as virtuous and a good son. Albert, put upon by his strong-willed mother, is forced to accept this appointment. But, in a bold move of self-actualization fueled by a bit of alcohol, he breaks free from small town conventions and uses his prize money to pursue the life experiences he so desperately desires. This all too familiar story of the conflict between generations ignites Britten’s hilarious opera and is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face regardless generational affiliation.
The cast features Ryan Nash in the title role and Eloise Williamson as Lady Billows. Madison Barrett and Kathryn Flynn will share the role of Nancy while William Volmar will appear as Sid, Alexxis McDade as Mum, Noah Strube as Mayor Upfold, Grady Hayden as Vicar Gedge and Augustine Ahn as Superintendent Budd. Isabel Celata and Minseon Lee will split the performances as Miss Wordsworth, Jing Zhang and guest artist Chloe Agostino as Florence Pike, Katie Eggers and Danielle Bullock as Emmie, and May Kohler and Riley Brutto as Cis. Liam Kleckner and John Palenik, both members of the Madison Youth Choir program, will share the role of Harry.
Greg Silver will design both scenery and lighting and Hyewon Park will design costumes. The production stage manager will be Grace Greene. Others on the production staff include Luis Orozco, assistant director; Evan Mitchell, operations manager for University Opera; Elizabeth Cantwell, assistant stage manager; and Kenneth Hoversten, Katie Eggers, and Madeline Walaszek, costume assistants.
Tickets are $30 for the general public, $25 for senior citizens, and $10 for UW–Madison students, available in advance online through Campus Arts Ticketing or by calling (608) 265-ARTS. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 am-5:30 pm, and Saturdays, 12 pm-5 pm. Tickets may also be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street in Madison.