Impressive talent on show in this tale of rural life
IF YOU ever wondered what would happen if Granville finally rebelled against Arkwright look no further than Benjamin Britten's delightfully amusing opera about the greengrocer's boy who cuts the apron strings and goes wild. When he first appears, engulfed by cabbages and carrots, Albert – pitched perfectly throughout by Mark Wilde – even looks like the put-upon shop assistant from Open All Hours complete with knitted cardigan, obligatory pinnie and downtrodden demeanour.
Set in an East Suffolk village in the late 1940s, the tale tells of the youngster's election as May King because no virtuous prospective queen can be found among the wayward local girls. Brow-beaten by his mother and overwhelmed by local dignitaries the lad, embarrassingly white suited and with a grotesque floral head-dress, reluctantly accepts his fate. It is only when his lemonade is spiked by rum that he finally begins to break out. And armed with 25 sovereigns prize money what an escape it turns out to be.
The English Touring Opera, directed in this production by Christopher Rolls, is blessed with a depth of impressive talent. In addition to tenor Mark Wilde's portrayal, which is well balanced both dramatically and musically, there are many standout performances.Jennifer Rhys-Davies, bursting on the stage like a brown, broad-beamed battleship, sweeps all before her as the local gentry Lady Billows with strong support from Rosie Aldridge as her secretary and self appointed moral conscience. Charles Rice and Martha Jones combine well as butcher's boy Sid and his girlfriend Nancy and the ensemble singing is strong, especially when lamenting what they fear is Albert's demise. The whole work is outstandingly underpinned by the Aurora Orchestra under the baton of Michael Rosewell and finely enclosed by the see-through timber-framed set designed by Neil Irish.
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