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Britten - Albert Herring / Graham-Hall, Rigby, Opie, Kern, Palmer, Johnson, Gale, Van Allan, Hammond-Stroud, Haitink, Glyndebourne Opera

5 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Britten's comic opera tells the story of how Albert Herring becomes a May King because a local village committee can find no girl virtuous enough to become a May Queen.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Alan Opie, Jean Rigby, John Graham-Hall
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Kultur Video
  • DVD Release Date: July 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 150 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009WIDXA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,185 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

This is a performance of Albert Herring in the opera house for which it was conceived. That first performance was nearly sixty years ago now and, in the wrong production, Eric Crozier's comedy can feel a bit arch and dated these days, even if Britten's musical wit stands up a little better. Let's face it, Albert is a wimp and one night's binge drinking (pace Mr. Blair) ain't necessarily going to change that. What's more - again in the wrong hands - Loxford can end up as a village entirely populated by caricatures, real E.F.Benson Land.

Sir Peter Hall's, however, are the right hands. Maybe it's because he's an East Anglian boy himself and remembers these people, maybe it's just his wealth of theatrical experience, but he never allows his singers to overact or indulge in sending their characters up. The humour in these characters works best if they're left to hang themselves. So the Vicar mouths his platitudes with total conviction; the Mayor, a mere tradesman, struggles to maintain his dignity among his social superiors; the school-teacher is desperate for praise and for people to see how much good influence she has had over her pupils, past and present; the intimidating Lady Billows is here more a character from Saki than from Punch. Most importantly, in the last act everyone takes the presumed death of Albert absolutely seriously. His Mum (Patricia Kern) really becomes a moving, almost tragic figure in her loss. The wonderful Threnody is played, acted and sung straight and works all the better for it. It's only when Albert himself bursts in on the end of it that the retrospective irony becomes clear. Before that, it is as it should be - a genuinely moving moment.

Britten's music is wonderfully inventive and genuinely witty.
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This is an excellent production of a most amusing comic opera. In my opinion it is the most "accessible" of Britten's operas so even if you are not a Britten fan, I urge you to try it. The one problem I have with the production is that to get the full benefit of the comedy one needs subtitles (as do most operas in English). I have the video but I am now going to buy the DVD which, thank God, is subtitled!
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... as I can imagine of this 1947 comic opera that has never thoroughly captured a spot in the repertoire of opera companies. It's a 1985 studio production, not a film of a staging, though based on a stage production at Glyndebourne. That's for the better, I suspect, as it allows for more intimate cinematic camera work and better exploration of the visual frame, the quaint dowdy village in East Suffolk where the naive goody-goody Albert is unsettled to find himself declared "King of the May." Tenor John Graham-Hall sings Albert, and he's spot-perfect in the role; he looks the part, he sounds the part, and he acts the part so artfully broadly that I suppose he has stage experience in productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.

The committee of village big shots -- Lady Billows, the vicar, the school marm, the police superintendent -- must all have been borrowed from the vaudeville or Gilbert/Sullivan stages; they're bizarrely eccentric, more so than mere cosmetics could render them. Gilbert's Mum is another grotesque figure, while his sly friend Sid has the voice and manner of an operetta star pasted all over him. This is in essence a Gilbert and Sullivan scenario, as corny as any Broadway Musical staged in the lifetime of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), but with "avant-garde" modernist music ...

... and I confess that I don't like the mix. Honestly, I don't like this opera at all; my five-star rating is simply a recognition of the quality of the performance. I have no intention of ever sitting through "Albert Herring" again. If I take it as a musical comedy, if I match it against the sparkling wit of the librettos of Gilbert & Sullivan, it seems clunky and dispirited.
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