A summer's night at the opera: Albert Herring, by Benjamin Britten, Clonter Opera Theatre

Young man wearing flower wreath

Daniel Kringer in the title role of Albert Herring, by Benjamin Britten, at Clonter Opera Theatre, near Congleton until July 23 - Credit: Andrew Billington Photography

There's a leadership contest going on at the loveliest of locations in the Cheshire countryside. The candidates are competing to be Queen of the May – but the worthies on the committee making the selection are finding them all morally wanting...

So there's only one choice, and that's young Albert Herring, apron-tied greengrocer's boy, who is duly crowned in a night of shenanigans and fabulous music.

'An evening of great hilarity, for both the young and old', is promised and that's a promise that's kept. Think The Importance of Being Earnest and To The Manor Born, the Vicar of Dibley, the Archers, and that Handforth Council Zoom meeting with Jackie Weaver. 

Intrigued? Then visit Clonter Opera (until Saturday, July 23) and support this Cheshire treasure that champions the future of live performance and Arts education.

My companion for this lovely summer's evening was a 10-year-old sceptic who became so entranced by her first night at the opera she went autograph hunting at home time.

actots singing in opera

The splendid ensemble vast of Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring, at Clonter Opera Theatre, near Congleton until July 23 - Credit: Andrew Billington Photography

Her favourite was Nancy (Frances Gregory), who reluctantly helps her beau Sid (Thomas Chenhall) bring about Albert's drunken fall from grace. And while every cast member in Albert Herring is finely drawn, each fulfilling their chance to shine, there needs to be a special mention for local lad Jordan Harding as Mr Gedge the vicar. 

Jordan fell in love with opera when he visited Clonter at the age of eight. He has gone on to study music at the University of Manchester, followed by a Master's in Voice at the Royal Northern College of Music and will join If Opera later this summer to sing the role of Maggiordomo in Rondine and as an ensemble member in Dido and Aeneas.

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With Philip Sunderland's exuberant and charming conducting of the 12-piece orchestra, and Bettina John's quirky and very special costumes, Clonter's Albert Herring is an aural and visual delight.

Declared by its director Michael McCaffery as: 'A dazzling operatic comedy in the great tradition of Rossini and Donizetti; a triumphant combination of words and music, creating the best operatic comedy of the last century,' Britten's comic masterpiece is indeed a joyous treat, and the perfect introduction – or long-awaited return – to Clonter, bridging opera and musical theatre.

Whether a purist or an opera novice, I urge you to buy a ticket for Clonter this week. Take a picnic, take friends. Support this Cheshire gem, support this production, support the Arts, support Albert Herring in his leadership contest. You won't be disappointed.

Clonter Opera Theatre
Swettenham Heath
CW12 2LR
01260 224 550