The RCM International Opera School has announced its summer production this year, Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten. This will be showcasing the UK’s best young vocal talent and featuring acclaimed soprano Janis Kelly in the role of Lady Billows
Following the success of his 2010 RCM production Orpheus in the Underworld, Liam Steel returns to direct Britten’s 1947 comic chamber opera in three acts, Albert Herring, aptly staged in the Britten Theatre. The light-hearted work tells the story of an innocent young man reluctantly crowned village ‘May Queen’ after no girl is deemed sufficiently virtuous. The libretto, by Eric Crozier, is based on a 19th-century French novel by Guy de Maupassant, Le Rosier de Madame Husson, transposed to a quintessentially English setting.
The production is one of three mounted annually by the RCM International Opera School, a leading operatic training centre which offers coaching to the finest young performers from around the world and has a record of producing outstanding graduates, who are often immediately accepted into programmes at top opera houses. Albert Herring is the most high-profile showcase of the year, giving audiences the chance to witness the next generation of opera stars. This academic year has already seen students mount ambitious productions of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and Handel’s Giove in Argo, the latter the modern UK première of a skilful musical reconstruction, in collaboration with the London Handel Festival.
Internationally-renowned Scottish soprano and RCM vocal teacher Janis Kelly takes the role of elderly noblewoman Lady Billows for all four performances, sharing a stage with some of her own pupils in an otherwise all-student cast – a valuable learning experience for the students involved. Over the course of a long and varied career, Kelly has appeared in a diverse range of roles for companies including the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera, English National Opera and Opera North – and notably originated the title role of Rufus Wainright’s opera Prima Donna in 2009. A former student of the RCM herself, she has taught there since 2008.
Student Maria Ostroukhova, singing Mrs Herring in this production, says, “I’ve been delighted to find out that we are going to work with a “real” singer. I think it is very important not only to watch professional singers sing and act, but also to see them working with the director and conductor, dealing with situations that happen on stage and backstage. It was a very important experience for me.”