Monday, March 28, 2011

Albert Herring

Zellerbach HallLorin Maazel's Castleton Festival Opera brought 2 Britten operas to Cal Performances this past week. Saturday night I attended their production of Albert Herring, featuring a young & attractive cast, led by Maestro Maazel himself. All the singers were comfortable in their roles & performed with a sense of ease. They formed a very even cast & convincingly portrayed a group of characters who have known each other for a long time. Tenor Brian Porter sings in a natural, easy way & plays Albert Herring as good-natured but not simple-minded. He's just bored & ready for a change. Barihunk Adrian Kramer was an adorable jock as Sid. His Nancy was a bright-voiced mezzo, Tammy Coil. Nancy Gustafson was steady & mature in both voice & bearing as Lady Billows. Tenor Tyler S. Nelson makes a pleasing, sweet sound, & he was very funny delivering the mayor's self-serving speech at the May Day Festival. Even though we had good seats in the center orchestra, the singers sounded like they were far away. The 3 children were over-miked in Act I but brought down to realistic levels in Act II. The 11 members of the Berkeley Symphony in the pit played well for Maestro Maazel.

The action takes place on a green lawn, reset with furniture to indicate the different locations. The cast is in period costumes, & the story-telling is straightforward. Peaches play a prominent role in every scene. They are stolen, thrown at people, flung at windows & tossed by the bushel onto the stage.

I'd never heard this opera before. I found it easy to listen to & appreciated the varied orchestration, but I often thought the music did not fit the action. The quote from Tristan seems inapt, & I found it weird rather than humorous when the strings accompanied an on-stage kiss with a slide. I never got caught up in the good-natured story. Nothing is at stake.

At the end of the curtain calls, 2 members of the production team came out & took bows, standing awkwardly apart from the rest of the performers. Mr. Maazel had to duck out of the way of the curtain when it came down unexpectedly soon while we were still applauding. On the way out, I heard someone in the audience humming one of the opera's jaunty themes.

§ Albert Herring
Castleton Festival Opera
Lorin Maazel, Artistic Director & Conductor
William Kerley, Stage Director
Berkeley Symphony

Lady Billows, Nancy Gustafson
Florence Pike, Kristin Patterson
Miss Wordsworth, Ashleigh Semkiw
Mr. Gedge, Alexander Tall
Mr. Upfold, Tyler Nelson
Superintendent Budd, Benjamin Bloomfield
Sid, Adrian Kramer
Albert Herring, Brian Z. Porter
Nancy, Tammy Coll
Mrs. Herring, Rachel Calloway
Emmie, Daphne Williams
Cis, Emma Thvedt
Harry, Andres Beck-Ruiz

Cal Performances
Sat, Mar 26, 8 pm
Zellerbach Hall

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