Oberlin Opera Theater presents Benjamin Britten’s “Albert Herring” November 2-5

Opera director Stephanie Havey and conductor Michael Sakir ’06 make their Oberlin debuts.

October 23, 2023

Abbi Getty

graphic created for Albert Herring opera, purple curtains, pink flowers, and green tiles
In the opera “Albert Herring” the concept of time is constantly referenced: “Time is racing us around the clock...youth must hurry at headlong pace.”
Photo credit: Nicole Slatinsky

The Oberlin Opera Theater is back this fall with another social commentary comedy about finding your place in the world. Benjamin Britten’s acclaimed chamber opera Albert Herring will be presented in four performances, November 2 through 5, in Oberlin College's Hall Auditorium.

This comedy comes after Oberlin Opera’s “wonderful” March 2023 outing of Bernstein’s dark satire, Candide, praised for its “several layers of brilliance” (ClevelandClassical.com). 

For Albert Herring, Opera Director Stephanie Havey is collaborating with Oberlin alumnus and music director Michael Sakir ’06 to bring this opera to life. Upon his return to Oberlin, Sakir expresses, “it’s an honor, a joy, and in some ways, a reset for my creative spirits.”

This production is double cast with students from Oberlin’s Vocal Studies Division and will be performed with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra.

The three-act opera takes us to the year 1947 in the English village of Loxford where Albert—a timid and shy teenager—longs for change amidst the town’s preparations for the annual May Day Festival. As the search for a May Queen turns to disaster when none of the young girls are deemed virtuous enough, one contest judge asks, “What about Albert?”

In Havey’s answer to that question, she observes, “Albert has a sweetness to him, a vulnerability, and I think he is very genuine. But, he is caught in a place of wanting to please everyone around him—his mother, the elders, the town—but he is doing that to his own detriment.”

Havey emphasizes the opera’s commentary on the relationship of how the adults treat children. “The adult characters in this story are all the leaders of the town. You have the mayor, the vicar, the head of police, and these are all town leaders who determine what’s acceptable in society, and they have the power to reward or punish a person’s behavior within the society,” explains Havey. “And I think Albert, this teenage boy, sees these folks as his oppressors, where he can’t really be himself.”

In a story that finds itself tangled in mischief, scandal, and adventure, Albert realizes he wants more in life.

Havey continues, “I think you fall in love with Albert for his sweetness, in the beginning. But then you really root for him to self-actualize and give in to himself at the end.”

The audience is left with no choice but to cheer on Albert as he discovers himself and turns the Village of Loxford upside down in the process.

Sung in English, and with supertitles, Albert Herring is an opera everyone can enjoy. One is also sure to lose themselves in the ingeniously and beautifully constructed score.

“I think comedies are so infrequently seen on the opera stage and this one is truly hilarious,” remarks Sakir. “If we do our job right, the audience will laugh, and laugh hard! And secondly, I hope they have a deeper appreciation of Britten’s mastery of storytelling through music.”

Showtimes are 8 p.m. for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances, November 2 through 4; a 2 p.m. matinee will be performed on Sunday, November 5.

Reserved seating is $10, with discounted $8 tickets available for senior citizens and Oberlin faculty, staff, alumni, and students. Tickets may be purchased online, by calling 800-371-0178, or by visiting the Oberlin College Central Ticket Service weekdays from 12-5 p.m.

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