Britten's opera Albert Herring is so infrequently staged, which makes it an interesting evening regardless of how it's done well or not. The cherry on top of the cake, though, is the no-holds-barred excellence of the performance during last weekend's Merola program staging.

The story, based on a short tale by Maupassant (translated here), goes like this: her ladyship Mrs. Billows, wanting to celebrate virginity and innocence, decides to select a May Queen. A committee composed of a vicar, a police chief, the town's mayor, and a schoolteacher each nominate a girl. But Mrs. Billows assistant, Florence, has vetted them all, negatively. Then they select Albert Herring, not a girl but quite the innocent. Oh, and the title of May King comes with a monetary prize. Having become inebriated at the celebration in his honor, Albert spends the night experimenting with the sins he held at bay for so long, and comes back in the morning thanking the committee for funding his party binge, and his awakening.

Pictures SF Opera/Kristen Locken. Above, Albert (James Benjamin Rodgers).