All hail Albert, the unlikely May King!
Benjamin Britten (1913–76)
Sung in English, with side-titles
About the show
Libretto by Eric Crozier. First performed 20 June 1947
There’s a crisis in the Suffolk town of Loxford. The day of the annual May Festival is getting closer, and all the possible candidates for the role of May Queen have been deemed unsuitable by the formidable Lady Billows and her committee of civic bigwigs. Then a new idea comes up – why not break with tradition and appoint a May King, as a suitably virginal young man presents himself: the greengrocer’s son, Albert Herring.
In the Suffolk village of Loxford, all the local bigwigs have been gathered by the formidable Lady Billows to come up with this year’s winner of the post of May Queen. Several candidates are put forward but are deemed unsuitable, with Lady Billows’ housekeeper Florence Pike having dug up dirt on each of them. Then a new idea comes up – why not break with tradition and appoint a May King, as a suitably virginal young man presents himself: the greengrocer’s son, Albert Herring.
In the greengrocer’s shop, Albert is teased by worldly butcher Sid, and looks on helplessly while Sid meets his girlfriend Nancy. Albert reflects on life under his mother’s thumb. The Festival Committee arrives with the news of his selection as May King. Mrs Herring is thrilled, but Albert fears humiliation from the village.
On the day of the Festival, Sid and Nancy spike Albert’s lemonade with rum. Albert is crowned the May King, but is tongue-tied when called upon to make a speech, descending into a fit of hiccups as he drinks the lemonade.
That night, Albert arrives home alone and quite drunk. He overhears Sid and Nancy planning to run away together, and, taking the prize money of £25 runs off in search of adventure.
The village is in uproar following Albert’s disappearance. Rumours abound that Albert is dead, but he returns, regaling the outraged Festival Committee with tales of his drunken debauchery at their expense. He stands up to his mother, and gives out free fruit to the village children.
Mr Gedge, Vicar
Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts
Mr Upfold, Mayor
Northern Chamber Orchestra