‹ Back to What's On Albert Herring

15 - 25 May 2013

Benjamin Britten (1947)

New production

The famous Russian pianist and conductor Sviatoslav Richter once famously dubbed it as the ‘greatest comic opera of the century’ – and indeed Benjamin Britten’s charming chamber opera, Albert Herring is surely one of the most endearing, light-hearted and outright funny operas you will ever see.

May Day is looming, and the small town of Loxford is in turmoil. All the potential May Queens are judged to be morally unsuitable. Desperate, the locals decide a May King will have to do instead. They choose the blameless Albert Herring, from the greengrocers. He isn’t keen, but stuck firmly under his mother’s thumb, he’ll do what he is told. However, after one rum-laced lemonade at the May Day ceremony, Albert decides to take his prize money to town to explore for him himself the pleasures life has denied him so far. But how will his sudden disappearance go down in the village?

Based on a short story by the French literary wizard Maupassant, Eric Crozier’s masterly libretto about small town life is so well-observed and strongly characterised that it could stand alone as a supremely entertaining play in its own right. In Britten’s witty, imaginative and touching score it finds an ideal match.

Giles Havergal, whose wise and beautifully-judged staging of The Merry Widow was a highlight of the 2010–11 season, returns to direct a new production featuring Dame Josephine Barstow in the role of the formidable Lady Billows.

Lasts approximately 2 hours 45 minutes.
Sung in English.

Financially supported by the Opera North Future Fund

Albert Herring will be performed in the round. View the new seating plan here.

What the critics say

It’s an ensemble performance, seamlessly arranged by movement director Tim Claydon to dissolve the challenges of performing in such close proximity to the audience. Each character comes alive without exaggeration or caricature. The veteran Josephine Barstow is the suitably regal Lady Billows, Alexander Sprague a quietly impressive Albert. William Dazeley and Mary Hegarty shine as vicar and schoolmistress, with Graeme Danby, Joseph Shovelton, Fiona Kimm and Elizabeth Sikora as the other village worthies. Marc Callahan’s self-advertising Sid makes a lesser impression than Katie Bray’s handsome-voiced Nancy. The children are smashingly good.

The Financial Times - Full Review ›

It’s a treat, in other words – you can’t imagine this piece being better performed.

The Arts Desk - Full Review ›

The conductor, Justin Doyle, and the Opera North orchestra work wonders to dispatch Britten’s mischievous and miraculous chamber score with pungency and precision.

The Times - Full Review ›

Justin Doyle's conducting is lithe and colourful and there is the visceral thrill of such uncommon proximity to Josephine Barstow, whose censorious Lady Billows could best be described as the parish version of her landmark performance in Opera North's production of Gloriana – the virgin queen reincarnated in twinset and pearls.

The Guardian - Full Review ›

the committee of local dignitaries – Mary Hegarty, William Dazeley, Graeme Danby, Joseph Shovelton – was nicely etched. Katie Bray caught my ear as Nancy, and Marc Callahan made a sympathetic Sid. Justin Doyle conducted jauntily.

The Telegraph - Full Review ›

This comes very close to being the Albert Herring of one’s dreams, its teamwork exemplary. It should not be missed.

York Press - Full Review ›

  • Albert Herring Alexander Sprague
  • Lady Billows Dame Josephine Barstow
  • Mrs Herring Fiona Kimm
  • Florence Pike Elizabeth Sikora
  • Mr Gedge William Dazeley
  • Mr Upfold Joseph Shovelton
  • Miss Wordsworth Mary Hegarty
  • Superintendent Budd Graeme Danby
  • Sid Marc Callahan
  • Nancy Katie Bray
  • Emmie Charlotte Trepess
Creative Team
  • Conductor Justin Doyle
  • Director Giles Havergal
  • Set and Costume Designer Leslie Travers
  • Lighting Designer John Bishop
  • Movement Director Tim Claydon

Click on the venue below to plan your visit.


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Important Information

Please note the time listed on your ticket/webpage is the start time for the performance. Leeds Grand Theatre is open from 1 hour beforehand for ticket collection etc. and doors to the Howard Assembly Room itself open approximately 30 minutes beforehand. Where there is a support act, this will also be stated on the website/ticket. We recommend arriving at least 15 minutes before show time as latecomers will only be admitted during a suitable break in the performance.

The Howard Assembly Room is located inside Leeds Grand Theatre

Leeds Grand Theatre is situated on New Briggate in the heart of Leeds City Centre.

The theatre is easily accessible by public transport. It is approximately 10 minutes walk from the main bus station and 15 minutes walk from the train station with many buses stopping in the immediate vicinity. For the most up to date information on local bus and train times, please check WYMetro. There is also a taxi rank outside the theatre although we recommend booking a taxi in advance, particularly on a Friday or Saturday evening.

Parking is available at various nearby car parks, including Edward Street/Templar Street and the St John's and Merrion Centre shopping malls. A limited amount of on street parking is available near the theatre is free after 6pm but this does tend to fill up very quickly.


What you say

Comment from methley0


methley0 said ago

A belated thank you to all concerned - and especially Giles Havergal and his design colleague for a production which was so "well rounded". I would urge Opera North to use the Howard more for chamber opera - and sometimes in simpler productions which can be toured. It is a great shame that this gem is not being seen beyond Leeds

Comment from Kenneth


Kenneth said ago

Much enjoyed - the intimate setting is fundamental to this opera, which I last saw at ON in 2002. The comments re inaudible libretto are fair - Josephine Barstow was particularly indistinct. But I can't see how surtitles could be used in the Howard Assembly Room.

Comment from Jim


Jim said ago

Error in previous post: I meant to say 'some of the words'. In fact I found it easier to hear the words with the male voices than the women or children.

Comment from Jim


Jim said ago

Very enjoyable, though somewhat disappointing to find that the words could not be heard, and this more frequently than I would expect. Was it the acoustics or the character of the voice? I couldn't decide. Lots of excellent characterization and clever use of props (but why did the clock have no hands.) A typical very clever Britten score nicely performed, and it was fun remembering to pick out the Tristan reference. The audience was very willing to laugh during last Saturday's performance. Well worth going.

Comment from Michael Wiles


Michael Wiles said ago

Three of us attended the Friday 24th May performance - what a treat, and especially enjoyable done in the round. Sub titles would have been helpful - with several exceptions, the words were not clear. Marc Callahan as Sid was one of those exceptions: well sung, diction good and characterisation excellent. The whole cast excelled in their characterisation, however. Please bring it back again!

Comment from Richard Lindley


Richard Lindley said ago

Wonderful opera, wonderful performance, and the Howard Assembly Rooms - perfect venue. Very well cast, musically brilliant and the acting was first rate.

It would be good to have subtitles because, even with such splendid singers it's simply impossible to follow all the words - and the libretto is excellent.

Thank you!

Comment from Joanneragan


Joanneragan said ago

We went to see Albert herring last week and we loved it,I could go and watch it all over again sid and nancy where great together and had good chemistry and the overall intimate connection to the characters and the exceptional orchestra made the evening one to remember.very funny indeed well done to you all.

Comment from Sean


Sean said ago

Lots of fun. A wonderful way in to Britten's music. Great singing, great characterisation. BUT..... I missed much of the humour because of a lack of subtitles. It just isn't possible to hear all the words, especially if you have a hearing problem.

Comment from Juliet Palmer


Juliet Palmer said ago

I went last night to see Albert Herring, being unfamiliar with Britten's music and therefore somewhat wary. What a treat! It was certainly the epitome of English village life after the war, with all its foibles and idiosyncracies. Fabulous singing and all-round production - the 'in the round' format worked particularly well. I may have been converted, and look forward to seeing more Britten!

Comment from Phil Aldred


Phil Aldred said ago

We saw Albert Herring on Tuesday last. What a treat!
Wasn't familiar with the piece, and there's no denying the music is complex, but the whole experience was wonderful. Fine voices, and the choreography... well! We sing in a local G&S society, and some of those dance steps brought back painful memories!!
A very happy evening. Thanks

Comment from Mrs Pat Jones


Mrs Pat Jones said ago

Very much enjoyed Albert Herring on Sunday. The intimate atmosphere of theatre in the round worked extremely well. Excellent production and cast, and very funny!

Comment from Una Barry


Una Barry said ago

I went to Albert Herring yesterday afternoon in Leeds. It was absolutely excellent. BUT I don't see why this production cannot go straight onto a normal stage with a little bit of adapting - just entrances and exits? I saw it at the Maltings in Snape, and whilst it wasn't the same production, it was the same forces. Opera North is as touring company, and it should be able to adapt to the majority of venues, not just those people who are fortunate to be able to travel to Leeds. The RNCM theatres in Manchester, where we performed with Kent Opera, would be ideal. Or even the Royal Exchange or the Bridgewater where they have the Manchester Midday Concerts. I just suspect there are other reasons why this production can't go elsewhere. Excellent though, well done!

Comment from Ted


Ted said ago

This was wonderfully entertaining in every respect. Some of the diction was a little indistinct in the first scene but thereafter I had no problems. It is a pity the audience didn't feel free to laugh out loud when the words and actions called for it. Those critics who said they didn't like the production were way off mark and anyone put off by their comments has missed a real treat.

Comment from Opera North


Opera North said ago

Hi, this particular production is being performed in the round, which isn't possible at any of our regular tour venues.

Comment from PT REILLY


PT REILLY said ago

That did not stop ON touring an earlier incarnation of Albert Herring to Nottingham, but what do I know?

Comment from Opera North


Opera North said ago

Hi Rachel, due to the nature of the piece we are performing it in the Howard Assembly Room as it is really too small to be performed in any of our usual touring venues (Leeds Grand Theatre, Nottingham Theatre Royal, The Lowry Salford Quays or the Newcastle Theatre Royal). We are also currently exploring options around how we might capture the production to make it available to a wider audience.

Comment from Rachel Barlow


Rachel Barlow said ago

I thought Opera North was a touring company; why is the only performance to be in Leeds? Disappointing.

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Offers & Discounts

Tuesday - Friday

  • Retired over 60: £3 off
  • Leeds Card Holders £3 off
  • Full time students: £3 off 
All week
  • Family ticket: 50% off for up to four Under 18s with each adult ticket
  • Groups of 10+: 20% off plus free seat for the organiser
  • Income Support, Pension Credit, JSA: £10 best available (excludes stalls)
  • Disabled people: 25% off (essential carer free)
On the Day:
  • £10 tickets (limited availability) 

Restaurant Deals

We’ve teamed up with Piazza by Anthony in Leeds to offer you an exclusive pre-theatre menu. Enjoy 2 Courses for £17.95 or 3 Courses for £22.95. Please use the promotion code ‘OPERANORTH’ when booking your table online or by calling 0113 2470995. This special offer is also available without booking, simply turn up and show your opera tickets to the receptionist.

Only valid on the day of the performance your ticket is for. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Enjoy 20% off your bill at Sandinista (Cross Belgrave Street - New Briggate) on presentation of your Opera North ticket when placing their food order. To book a table call 0113 305 0372. Food is served till 10pm through the week with final orders at 9pm Friday and Saturday. Only valid on the day of the performance their ticket is for. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Just a short walk from the theatre, another fantastic dining option is The Reliance (76-78 North Street).Treat yourself to the pre-theatre menu served between 5:30 and 6:30pm, Mon - Sat. Enjoy 2 courses for £13.95 or 3 courses for £17.90. Call 0113 2956060 to book a table.

The Food Academy at Flannels have set up a pre-theatre special menu for Opera North audience members. 2 courses for £15.50 or 3 courses for £18.50, the menu can be found here and they ask that people book in advance.