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Last modified: Friday, February 3, 2012

IU Opera presents British comedy ‘Albert Herring’ at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater

WHAT: Benjamin Britten's "Albert Herring"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Feb. 9 to 11 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 12
WHERE: Buskirk-Chumley Theater, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave.
TICKETS: Purchase tickets at the Musical Arts Center box office (812-855-7433), the Buskirk-Chumley Theater box office (812-323-3020) or online at A discounted price is available for all students.

Feb. 3, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- One does not usually think of British humor, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater and Indiana University Opera Theater in the same sentence.

A scene from IU Opera Theater's "Albert Herring."

Print-Quality Photo

However, on 8 p.m. Feb. 9 to 11 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 12, all three will align to create a unique entertainment experience in downtown Bloomington, with Benjamin Britten's popular comic opera "Albert Herring."

"'Albert Herring' is a British farcical opera that will have you laughing hysterically," said guest stage director James Marvel, who helmed IU Opera's "Suor Angelica" and "Gianni Schicchi" last season and "Lucia di Lammermoor" in 2010. "I can honestly say that I think this production is much funnier than other productions of it that I have encountered, primarily because of the close attention we have given to the text. The acting -- as well as the singing, of course -- is fantastic."

When Britten and librettist Eric Crozier started working on "Herring," Britten's third full opera, they did so with an ambitious goal in mind: the re-establishment of an English operatic tradition. "Albert Herring" was to serve as the first production of the English Opera Group, an organization Britten, Crozier and John Piper founded in 1947 to promote and perform new and old operatic works by English composers.

The group believed the time had come when England could create its own operas and believed the best way to achieve the beginnings of a repertory was through the creation of a form of opera requiring few resources, and so the chamber opera "Albert Herring" premiered in Glyndebourne in June 1947.

Crozier crafted a witty text rich with literary allusion, skewering English provincial culture with sharply defined characters that Britten exploited to the fullest. Just as Crozier used formal and informal language and speech patterns to clearly delineate the two worlds that Albert finds himself caught between -- a stuffy, moralistic and repressive world and a bohemian world -- Britten assigned to the two worlds contrasting musical styles.

"'Albert Herring' is a delightful comedy that pokes fun at British small-town mentality," said IU Jacobs School of Music professor Arthur Fagen, who will command the podium. "Since no virgin girls can be found to be the May Queen, innocent Albert is chosen as May King. Britten uses a small ensemble of 13 players in a most sophisticated and imaginative way in this stylized comedy. I believe that James Marvel's hilarious staging and the excellent quality of our singers and musicians will make for a very entertaining evening."

Set and costume designs will be by IU Opera Theater.

The usual Opera Insights pre-performance discussions will not be offered for this production, nor will it be live-streamed, but a video interview with members of the cast is available at

"If you don't attend this opera, you are ultimately doing yourself great harm," Marvel said. "And that is unfair to you, your family and your friends. Stop hurting the people that love you. Go to 'Albert Herring' and laugh until you cry. You'll be doing us all a favor."

Visit the production website, with synopsis, program notes, photos and more, at

You can also find IU Opera Theater on Facebook and Twitter.