Albert Herring: About the Opera

Minnesota Opera
2 min readMay 14, 2021

Albert Herring, composed in 1947, is Benjamin Britten’s second chamber opera. Set in an imaginary East Suffolk town not far from where Britten grew up, this charming and comedic opera is laced with the same musical wittiness, parody, and caricature heard in Britten’s other operatic works, most notably, Peter Grimes. While more jocular than many of Britten’s previous operas, Albert Herring is far from sheer absurdity. Britten uses Albert, a shy, innocent boy frustrated with small-town conventions, to examine the role of the sympathetic outsider, a trope Britten explores in many of his works. Living as a gay man in a time when homosexuality was outlawed in England, Britten discretely used characters like Albert Herring and Peter Grimes to expose his audiences to the sympathetic outsider and force them to recognize the humanity in each of us. Although the majority of these works end in tragedy, Albert Herring offers hope. After breaking free from the expectations of society, Albert is not met with his demise, instead, he discovers the value of confidence, independence, and self-worth. The libretto was written by Eric Crozier and is based on Guy de Maupassant’s 1887 comic novella Le Rosier de Madame Husson. Albert Herring premiered at Glyndebourne in 1947 and was conducted by Britten himself with English tenor Peter Pears singing the title role.

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