David Ronis
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University Opera Presents Britten’s “Albert Herring”

University Opera presents Albert Herring, Benjamin Britten’s entertaining ensemble comedy with a social message

On October 24, 26, and 28, University Opera will present its first operatic production of the season, Albert Herring, composed in 1947 by Benjamin Britten. The libretto is based on Guy de Maupassant’s novella Le Rosier de Madame Husson, and was written by Eric Crozier. It was premiered in 1947 at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in East Sussex, England, and received its first United States premiere at Tanglewood in 1949. It has been called the greatest comic opera of the century.

It will mark the first opera staged under the direction of David Ronis, visiting director of opera at UW-Madison. Read about David Ronis’s new ideas for University Opera. 

The opera will be performed in Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall, on Friday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, October 26 at 3 p.m., and Tuesday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m.


The story begins when the town council in the small English village of
Loxford, motivated by the formidable Lady Billows, meets in order to select a “chaste and virtuous” Queen of the May. When no young ladies can be found that fit the bill (scandale!), they decide to choose a King of the May instead. The young man they select is the nerdy Albert Herring. Henpecked by his mother, Albert dreams of going out on his own. For the moment, however, he does not have the emotional wherewithal to break loose from her tether. That changes when his contemporaries, Sid and Nancy, spike his drink during the celebration. Under the influence of alcohol, he conquers his inhibitions and disappears overnight. The next morning, the whole town believes him to be dead. But Albert, of course, reappears and proceeds to tell them all off. Thus, Britten’s opera is both a coming of age story as well as one that gently examines the nature of hypocrisy in modern society.

Although originally set in 1900, the University Opera production transports Albert Herring to 1947, the year it was written. At that time, England was still reeling from the hardships of World War II. By setting the opera at the the time of its creation, University Opera hopes
to reflect some of the social and economic challenges faced by Britten and
his colleagues when they started the English Opera Group. Some of Britten’s most important work dates from this period in which he wrote for the same forces of 13 instrumentalists and a small group of singers, and consequently made a huge contribution to the genre of the chamber opera.

The 13-character cast of Albert Herring features William Ottow and Joshua Sanders in the title role, as well as Jessica Kasinski and Tyana O’Connor as Lady Billows. Additionally, the production will include Alaina Carlson and Jennifer DeMain as Nancy, Brian Schneider as Sid, Joel Rathmann as the Vicar, Tia Cleveland as Mrs. Herring, Sheila Wilhelmi as Florence, Dennis Gotkowski as the Mayor, Emi Chen as Emmie, Emily Weaver as Cis, and Nicole Heinen and Sarah Richardson as Miss Wordsworth. Three local performers join the cast – Rick Henslin as Superintendent of Police Budd, as well as Michael Chiaverini and Eli Kuzma, boys who sing in the Madison Youth Choir, splitting the role of Harry. The instrumental forces for Albert Herring will be the University Opera Orchestra, conducted by Kyle Knox, with musical preparation by Mr. Knox, Chan Mi Jean, and Thomas Kasdorf.

The production staff include scenic designer Stephen Hudson-Mairet, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, lighting designer Jordan Kardasz, prop designer Dana Fralick, scene painting advisor Liz Rathke, technical director Greg Silver, and production stage manager Erin McDermott. Student staff include Emi Chen, costumes; Katie Oliver and Fabian Qamar, props; Melanie Treuhaft, scene painter; Briana Miller, master electrician; and Lukas Heins, assistant carpenter.

Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings. Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.

University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact opera@music.wisc.edu.