Britten’s Albert Herring is mysteriously under represented in the DVD catalogue. The work is performed quite often being relatively inexpensive to mount and suitable for smaller venues but the many productions haven’t led to many recordings. I have only been able to find one and that dates back to 1985 when it was recorded at Glyndebourne. That’s appropriate enough as that’s the house the piece premiered in in 1947. At least it’s a fair and effective representation of the work. Peter Hall’s production takes few liberties with the libretto and is a rather literal and effective, if necessarily somewhat caricatured, representation of life in a Suffolk village. The sets and costumes are evocative; especially the hall of Lady Billows’ house which really evokes a 17th century Great Hall and, as the view through the window tells us, is set in or close to the village, not in an isolated park. There’s quite a lot of that kind of attention to detail in this production.
The cast is superb. There are stand out performances from Felicity Palmer as Florence Pike and Richard Van Allan as Superintendent Budd. Alan Opie and Jean Rigby make an attractive and effective Sid and Nancy but the star of the piece, rightly, is John Graham-Hall whose portrayal of the repressed young title character is most impressive. Right from the beginning one senses that here is a young man on the edge and it’s almost a relief that when he does throw off the shackles it’s in such a relatively harmless way. Throw in the Glyndebourne chorus, the soloists of the LPO and some masterly conducting from Bernard Haitink and one has a most satisfying musical and dramatic experience.
Video direction is also by Peter Hall and one hardly notices it which is high praise in my book. The recording though shows its age. It’s 4:3 and clearly a tape transfer and is quite grainy and soft. The Dolby stereo sound though is decent. Curiously it’s recorded at a very low level and I had to crank my receiver right up to get a reasonable volume. Documentation consists of a synopsis and a chapter listing annoyingly printed on the inside of the box rather than in a separate leaflet. There are no extras. Subtitle options are English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portugese.