English Touring Opera (ETO) make a welcome return to the Theatre Royal Bath this autumn when the company performs Benjamin Britten’s classic village comedy, Albert Herring on Monday 5 November and Peter Maxwell Davies’ psychological mystery, The Lighthouse on Tuesday 6 November, as part of a national tour. For the 2012 autumn performances, ETO is once again working with the acclaimed Aurora Orchestra.
Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring is a masterpiece, with a score of great beauty. Appearing at the Theatre Royal on Monday 5 November, this hilarious satire, with undertones of melancholy, has become recognised as a classic, comic depiction of English village life. At the start of the composer’s centenary year, ETO’s new production is conducted by Michael Rosewell, a Britten expert, and directed by Christopher Rolls, who was nominated for a 2011 Olivier Award for his production of Les Parents Terrible at the Donmar Warehouse.
Albert Herring tells the story of the election by village committee of a shy local lad in a grocer’s shop as May King – a title normally awarded as May Queen to a virtuous girl. Naturally, the crowning of the May King does not go quite as planned, and poor (or lucky) Albert Herring ends up straying from the path of virtue.
The company includes many experienced and award-winning singers including Mark Wilde in the title role, and Jennifer Rhys-Davies as the fearsome Lady Billows. The cast is completed by Rosie Aldridge as Florence Pike; Anna-Clare Monk as Miss Wordsworth; Charles Johnston as Mr Gedge, the vicar; Richard Roberts as Mr Upfold, the mayor; Tim Dawkins as Superintendent Budd; Charles Rice as Sid; Martha Jones as Nancy; and Clarissa Meek as Mrs Herring.
Appearing on Tuesday 6 November, The Lighthouse is composer Peter Maxwell Davies’s most frequently performed work. Directed by Ted Huffman and conducted by Richard Baker, ETO’s production marks the first time the opera has toured the UK.
Intense and suspenseful, The Lighthouse is based on a real-life account of the mysterious disappearance of three lighthouse keepers on the Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides, over Christmas in 1900. This thrilling work describes both the cramped conditions of the lighthouse, and the claustrophobia of the court hearing at which the relief keepers give their account of the incident.
Maxwell Davies’s theatrical score ratchets up the tension with consummate skill to display modern English music at its most theatrically effective. Moments of lyrical beauty, banjo-accompanied ballads, and hymn-inspired movements lead to a powerful, percussive conclusion.
James Conway, General Manager of English Touring Opera, said:
“This is no normal season of operas, but a sort of touring festival of approachable, intimate, theatrically compelling operas from the last century. It has every chance of being a performance that changes your ears and your eyes, even your life.”
ETO return to Bath following their visit in 2011 to perform Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and James Conway’s period production of Handel’s Flavio. ETO’s 2012 national autumn tour opened on 4 October in London at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, and takes in nine towns and cities across the country.
ENGLISH TOURING OPERA perform at the Theatre Royal Bath presenting Albert Herring on Monday 5 November and The Lighthouse on Tuesday 6 November. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk