It is time for the annual May Day Festival, but what happens when none of the girls are pure enough to be May Queen?
In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Benjamin Britten, the Meadows Opera Theatre and Meadows Symphony Orchestra will perform Britten’s comic opera Albert Herring. The production runs Feb. 7-10, 2013 in the Bob Hope Theatre, Owen Arts Center.
Albert Herring is set in 1947, just two years after the end of World War II, in a time when youth were trying to pull away from traditions and live life in their own terms. This theme is explored through the title character, who is named May King after being lauded as the only virgin in town. Albert is embarrassed by his new title and seeks adventure and independence from his mother after unknowingly drinking rum-spiked lemonade at the May Day Festival. The opera is a story of triumph and having the right to be who we really are regardless of what others think and accept.
The opera was first performed in 1947, with a libretto by Eric Crozier. Meadows Opera Theatre Director Hank Hammett had the privilege of studying with Crozier in his younger years, and they became good friends. “Eric and Nancy (Eric’s wife) fell in love during the writing of the opera,” Hammett says, “and that love is very much reflected in the music that Britten wrote for Nancy’s character. Nancy is one of the individuals who spikes the lemonade.”
Meadows student Julie Dieltz, playing Lady Billows, says, “Performing in an opera is one of the most exciting and terrifying experiences I’ve had. One must rely on specific personal experiences in order to develop a character. Through research into one’s life, the life of the character, and into history, the character comes alive.”
A unique element of Meadows Opera Theatre productions is that they are each fully designed by third-year M.F.A. students from the Division of Theatre. All sets, costumes and lighting are specially created by Meadows production, something that sets Meadows apart from other universities.
“This year’s production has surpassed them all. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by this kind of collaborative, interdisciplinary talent,” Hammett says.
First-time opera performer Daniel Bouchard, playing Mr. Gedge, also noted the collaborative nature of Meadows. “The true beauty of opera is that it is a collaborative art, bringing extremely talented musicians together on stage and in the pit to tell a story. Cooperation between these talented artists can be difficult sometimes, but we have worked so hard together that this interaction is almost second nature now.”
The Meadows Symphony Orchestra will be in the pit under the direction of Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Activities Paul Phillips. The opera will be sung in English, with projected English text above the stage as well.
Tickets are $7 for SMU faculty, staff and students. The show begins at 8 p.m. Feb. 7-9 and 2 p.m. Feb. 10. For more information, contact the Meadows Ticket Office, 214-768-2787 (214-SMU-ARTS).
(All images by Brian Hwu c/o Meadows School of the Arts)
Find a complete cast list below the cut.