Carmen, Cinderella, Rodelinda, Aida . . . and ALBERT?

Forgive us for such a thematic deviation . . .  but we just couldn’t resist!  

Besides, Benjamin Britten’s rollicking comic chamber opera actually is all about the search for a great woman—the perfect May Queen.  Alas and alack however, in this rural English village,  there’s no fittingly chaste young woman to be found . . . at least according to Lady Billows, who lords it over the entire town with an eye that is . . . how should we say? . . . myopically moralistic?  For her, the town is awash in immorality with nary a virgin to be found.  Tsk.  Tsk.

The town throws off tradition and opts instead for a King of May.  Amid giggles, catcalls and jibes of all kinds, our unlikely hero is crowned ... and gets the chance at long last to escape from behind his mother’s apron.

All performances are held at The Hampton Opera Center: 211 SE Caruthers Street.

Setting: Loxford, a small market-town in East Suffolk, England, in April and May of 1900.

Act I. Housekeeper Florence Pike is run ragged. Her mistress, Lady Billows, is organizing the annual May Day festival, and has gathered all the important people of the village to vet nominations for the coveted position of Queen of the May. But Florence has dug up dirt on every single girl nominated, proving that none is worthy to wear the May Queen's crown. There is, as it turns out, not one female virgin in all of Loxford. Lady Billows is depressed. Superintendent Budd suggests the solution may be to select, this year, a May King instead of a May Queen. He knows of a young man in town who is as certainly virginal as the girls are certainly not: Albert Herring.

At the grocer's, Albert is teased for his timidity by the easygoing Sid. Sid's girlfriend Nancy comes in to do some shopping, and the couple shares a tender moment while Albert eats his heart out. The lovers leave, and Albert has time to reflect on his miserable existence before the Festival Committee arrives with the news of his selection as May King. Mrs. Herring is thrilled; Albert is less so. Mother and son quarrel, to the mocking commentary of the village children.

Act II. It is the day of the festival. Sid and Nancy are preparing the banquet tent, and they take the chance to slip a little rum into Albert's lemonade glass. Albert is tongue-tied at the feast in his honor, but drinks his lemonade greedily. Together with his crown of flowers, he is awarded twenty-five pounds in prize money.

That night Albert arrives home alone, quite drunk. In the street, Sid keeps a date with Nancy, and the two discuss their pity for Albert before going off together. This is finally the breaking point for Albert. He takes the prize money and heads out looking for trouble.

Act III. The next morning Albert has not returned, and the village is in a panic. Superintendent Budd is leading a search, while the guilt-stricken Nancy tends to Mrs. Herring. A village boy shouts that a "Big White Something" has been found in a well, and the villagers file in to break the news en masse: Albert's crown of flowers has been discovered, badly smashed. Clearly, he is dead. The village joins in a chorus of grief, which is interrupted by the return of Albert. He thanks the Festival Committee for providing him with the cash for his night out. The crowd disperses, and Albert invites the village kids into the shop to sample some complimentary fruit.


“Good operas are surprisingly tough and can somehow survive all kinds of treatment.”

--Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten wrote only three comedies in his career:  Paul Bunyan, Albert Herring and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Given the potent combination of wit, pathos and beauty evident in each of his comedies, one wonders why he didn’t write more of them.  That Albert Herring, with its rather specific material in respect to time and place, should be the most translated and possibly most often performed of Britten’s chamber works is a testament to the enduring nature of both the music and the story.

Albert Herring is a comedy, there is no doubt.  But like most of the best comedies, there is a layering depth of human tragedy, speaking to larger themes than those readily apparent on the surface.  Donald Mitchell, one of Britten’s publishers, calls Albert Herring a “serious comedy,” following the path of Mozart in particular, who wrote in a genre we now refer to as opera semi-seria—comedies that may make us uncomfortable or may prompt us to ask ourselves how we should interpret what we have seen.  In the case of Albert Herring, Britten neither confirmed nor denied alternative interpretations or protestations of deeper meaning.  And that too is perhaps fitting for a great work of art.  The viewer may find deeper meaning in art than the artist intended, and that may be as legitimate as the artist’s own view.

Many critics have drawn parallels between Albert Herring and Britten’s great glowering tragedy, Peter Grimes.  Certainly the two characters can be considered flip sides of the same coin, or as Roger Brunyate, Director of Opera at the Peabody Institute, likens them, the same man behind the mask of Comedy and the mask of Tragedy.  Both characters find themselves on the outside of societal norms, slaves to external expectations which threaten to overwhelm their own senses of self.   Most critics agree to those similarities, but from there various opinions diverge.  

One opinion holds that both Peter Grimes and  Albert Herring are metaphors for closeted and/or persecuted homosexuality, certainly an interesting posit given the fact that the composer was a gay man living in a country where homosexuality was outlawed.  Some directors in recent times have gone so far as to take Grimes’ ambiguous sexuality and spell it out rather clearly to the audience, although, as Brunyate points out, this is unnecessary.  Albert Herring is very circumspect in some ways about his evening of depravity, listing a parade of lasciviousness sure to shock and in its entirety highly improbable.  Whether Albert’s awkwardness around girls is due to shyness or sexual ambiguity ultimately doesn’t matter, he finds himself freed from unreasonable constraints by the end of the opera.  He must still live in Loxford, but now he can at least live there on his own terms.  

Albert Herring was first performed in 1947 at Glyndebourne by the English Opera Group, formed by Britten, his partner, tenor Peter Pears, and some of their musical friends as a protest against the British opera establishment, represented by Sadler’s Wells.  Eric Crozier provided the libretto which was based on Guy de Maupassant’s rather dark short story, "Le rosier de Madame Husson".  The story also concerns a provincial “worthy,” Madame Husson, interested in rewarding paragons of feminine virtue with honor and a cash prize.  Madame Husson, like Lady Billows, also has a housekeeper with her finger on the pulse of village pulchritude and promiscuity, and like Britten’s village of Loxford, Grison cannot seem to present a female paragon of virtue, but only a male.  Since, in Maupassant’s words, “virtue is eternal; [having] neither sex nor country” a boy will receive the honor due to his clean living.  Sadly, Maupassant’s Isidore does not have a happy fate, but finds his life ultimately ruined, whereas Albert Herring triumphs, freeing himself from his mother and from an oppressive society.

Albert Herring is a coming of age comedy of remarkable depth, weaving social satire with themes of freedom, oppression and growing up into a very funny, surprisingly poignant evening.  Britten’s music is lively and accessible, with a broad range of sonorities one might think impossible from such a small ensemble.  What makes it wonderful, though, is that it allows us to interpret its depth and take from it what we need.

About the Composer:  Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

“Composing is like driving down a foggy road toward a house.  Slowly, you see more details of the house—the color of the slates and bricks, the shape of the windows.  The notes are the bricks and mortar of the house.”
--Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) This quote epitomizes Britten’s practical, workman-like approach to composition.  His method was disciplined and regular.  To him the romantic notion of  “. . . a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it [was] nonsense.”  He felt that “nighttime was for sleeping”!  While an idea might strike at any time, percolating on a walk or a train ride, the process of nurturing that idea was the same.  Upon returning home, he would make notes fleshing out his idea, and then, when at Aldeburgh, he would write the music during carefully structured hours, a session in the morning and then in the late afternoon between “tea and dinner.”  Such an organized, diligent approach may surprise the casual music-lover seized by a vision of Mozart’s divine inspiration or Beethoven’s tortured process, but, after a glance at Britten’s life and body of work, it seems to fit the man well, though his music is full of invention and surprise.

Britten was born on November 22, 1913 in Lowestaft, England.  Music was part and parcel of his early childhood, albeit of limited formal instruction.  His mother was a talented amateur singer.  At five, the boy began composing and continued to snatch time to write before school.  At eleven, his prolific and precocious talent attracted the attention of Frank Bridge, a composer fluent in the emerging styles of the early 20th century.  Bridge took the boy under his wing and gave him the tools and techniques to frame his inspiration.

At 17, Britten entered the Royal College of Music, where he studied piano and composition.  While his piano instructors made him an extraordinary pianist, his composition studies were less rewarding.  Unfortunately, he found the atmosphere unfriendly to him and his music.  The great English composer Ralph Vaughn Williams was a professor there and Vaughn Williams was openly derisive of Britten’s mentor, Frank Bridge.  Vaughn Williams was suspicious of “brilliance” and “technical virtuosity for its own sake,” so while Britten could never be accused of needless wizardry, his exceptional talent, misperceived, may have doomed his relationship with the older composer.  At any rate, Britten was dissatisfied with his time at the Royal College of Music, remarking much later that “he did not learn much.”  After his “enlightened and concentrated” tutelage with Frank Bridge, his composition studies seemed stodgy.  Adding to his frustration, Britten encountered resistance getting his works performed.  By 1935, he began to compose music for a series of documentary films for the General Post Office.  This experience provided real skills he would later use in his operas—particularly those innovations and economies demanded by the limited resources made available to him by the Post Office.

On the set, he met W.H. Auden with whom he began to collaborate on a regular basis.  This partnership led to works of intense political commentary, particularly Our Hunting Fathers and Ballad of Heroes.  Auden’s 1939 emigration to the United States prompted Britten to confront his political stance.  A passionate conscientious objector, he and his life-partner, tenor and fellow-pacifist Peter Pears, also left England for the New World.  There he continued to write, producing several significant works during this period.  Instrumental works were still ascendant and of particular importance were the “Sinfonia da requiem” and “First Quartet.”  In addition, while in the United States, Britten made his first foray into opera with the operetta Paul Bunyan to an Auden text.  It was withdrawn before it was performed however, and it wasn’t until 1976 that it made its debut.  

Disillusioned and dissatisfied with the American way of life, Britten and Pears returned to England in 1942, and Britten began his contributions to English opera.  In 1944, he began work on Peter Grimes, suggested by a poem in "The Borough" by George Crabbe.  Crabbe’s poetry spoke to Britten in a profound way, just as their shared Suffolk roots entered both artists’ work.  On June 7, 1945, Peter Grimes premiered at the Sadler Wells Opera Company.  While the huge critical and popular success firmly established Britten as the “most gifted music dramatist England had produced since Purcell,” the hostility Britten experienced from some of the Sadler Wells Company soured him on the operatic establishment.  In a country that had only two opera companies, this was something of a problem, particularly in a culture unused to supporting a repertoire of native operas.  Still, Britten had determined that he liked composing operas, despite his unhappy experience, and so he pared down his efforts to chamber operas for smaller, more open companies.  For Glyndebourne he wrote The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring, both using smaller casts and orchestras suitable for more provincial organizations.  Evidently, Britten found Glyndebourne wanting as well, and he decided to form a new company with Pears and some other close friends and allies.  The resulting organization was dubbed the English Opera Group and eventually evolved into the Aldeburgh Festival.  From this point forward, the English Opera Group premiered all of Britten’s operas, with the exception of his full-scale, commissioned works, Billy Budd and Gloriana.

Philosophically, Britten wanted to “restore to the musical setting of the English language a brilliance, freedom, and vitality that have been curiously rare since Purcell.”  He was committed to “classical practice,” by which he meant clarity and “[the crystallization of emotion in] a dramatic situation.”  This neo-classical sentiment did not eschew modern techniques—nor did it shift too exclusively into purely atonal music or even completely through-composed music, bereft of “self-contained formal units” like arias and ensembles.  Britten used a musical—and dramatic—language all his own.  

With very rare exceptions, Britten’s operas concern the sensitive, naive outsider, corrupted or misunderstood by the greater society.  There is often a sacrifice of an innocent demanded.  Clear examples include Billy Budd, Milo in The Turn of the Screw, the apprentice (and arguably Peter, himself) in Peter Grimes, and Lucretia’s “virtue” in The Rape of Lucretia.  Britten was ever concerned with the corruption of purity, the needs of the individual pitted against the conventions of society and the ultimate destruction of the individual who cannot (or refuses to) conform.  Much has been made of Britten’s homosexuality in relation to these thematic tendencies in his operas, but just as much could be made of his political convictions, his pacifism, and his artistry.  These things branded him the “sensitive outsider” too.  His pacifism during World War II was possibly more unacceptable than his sexuality.  

Britten’s significance is hard to overstate.  He was extremely prolific.  In addition to his operatic writing, he composed 17 stage works, 25 orchestral works, 43 choral works, 25 chamber works, 27 works for solo voice, as well as incidental music, and arrangements.  The operas, however, are what cement the importance of Britten’s contribution.  The obvious love of the voice as an instrument and the seemingly endless variety of musical language certainly entitle Britten to be numbered among the great operatic masters.



Brenda Touhy - Albert Herring

Brendan Tuohy


Tenor Brendan Tuohy is currently in his second year as a Houston Grand Opera Studio Artist.  Recently he sang Goro in the company’s new production of Madama Butterfly.

Brendan Tuohy


Former Portland Opera Studio Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:

El Remendado, Carmen (2007), Title role, Albert Herring (2008), Messenger, Aida (2008), Gastone, La Traviata (2008), First Prisoner, Fidelio (2008), The Prologue, The Turn of the Screw (2009), Pane/La Natura, La Calisto (2009), Matteo Borsa, Rigoletto (2009), Pong, Turandot (2011).

Tenor Brendan Tuohy is currently in his second year as a Houston Grand Opera Studio Artist.  Recently he sang Goro in the company’s new production of Madama Butterfly.  Last season Mr. Tuohy sang First Noble in Lohengrin and Tchaplitsky in The Queen of Spades with HGO. Also last season Mr. Tuohy sang Martin in the Tender Land with Vashon Opera, the Tenor Soloist in Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Oregon Symphony, the Tenor Soloist in Messiah with Portland Baroque Orchestra and the Tenor Soloist in Dvořak’s Requiem with the Grant Park Music Festival.
Before his time in Houston, Tuohy was a Studio Artist with Portland Opera.  During the 2007/08 season, Tuohy performed the role of El Remendado in Carmen, the title role in Albert Herring, and Messenger in Aida.  Mr. Tuohy also performed On Wenlock Edge by Ralph Vaughan Williams in the Studio Artists’ Spring Recital.  He spent the summer in Cincinnati where he sang Gastone in La Traviata with Cincinnati Opera.  

During the 2008/09 season, his second season as a member of the Portland Opera Studio, Tuohy sang Gastone in La Traviata, First Prisoner in Fidelio, The Prologue in The Turn of the Screw, Pane/La Natura in La Calisto, Matteo Borsa in Rigoletto, and was featured in recital.  Other engagements included singing the tenor soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for Oregon Symphony.

Tuohy graduated with a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance.  While at the University of Cincinnati, his numerous roles included the title role in Albert Herring, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Pylade in Iphigenie en Tauride, and The Doctor in The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe.

Upcoming engagements for Mr. Tuohy include Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Don Curzio in La nozze di Figaro all with HGO.  He will also be featured in recital with HGO singing Schumann’s op 39 Liederkreis and will return to the Grant Park Music Festival this summer to sing the Tenor Soloist in Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang.


Sharin Apostolou - Miss Wordsworth Sharin Apostolou - The Fire / The Princess / The Nightingale


Former Portland Opera Studio Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:

Frasquita, Carmen, 2007; Clorinda, Cinderella, 2007; Rodelinda, Rodelinda, 2008; Miss Wordsworth, Albert Herring, 2008; High Priestess, Aida, 2008; Annina, La Traviata, 2008; Calisto/L’Eternità, La Calisto, 2009; Countess Ceprano, Rigoletto, 2009

Sharin Apostolou

Sharin Apostolou - The Fire / The Princess / The Nightingale


Former Portland Opera Studio Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:

Frasquita, Carmen, 2007; Clorinda, Cinderella, 2007; Rodelinda, Rodelinda, 2008; Miss Wordsworth, Albert Herring, 2008; High Priestess, Aida, 2008; Annina, La Traviata, 2008; Calisto/L’Eternità, La Calisto, 2009; Countess Ceprano, Rigoletto, 2009

Sharin Apostolou came to the attention of the operatic world and to critical acclaim after stepping in at the last minute on opening night, replacing an ailing colleague in the title role of Handel’s Rodelinda at Portland Opera. Ms. Apostolou was lauded by The Oregonian for “her lovely, high, clear voice, and her coloratura -- the dazzlingly fast music that says "Don't mess with me" – was exuberant…she covered the musical terrain without fear,” and by Crosscut Seattle for, “[taking] on an impossibly daunting role with fearless flair, unraveling a sweet lyric coloratura voice of real promise.”

Sharin Apostolou’s 2010-2011 engagements include her Asian debut with the Macao International Music Festival as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, her Avery Fisher Hall debut in two concerts with the National Chorale: Handel’s Alexander’s Feast paired with Mozart’s Requiem, and Handel’s Messiah; and a return to Portland Opera singing Le Feu, La Princesse and Le Rossignol in Ravel’s L‘enfant et les Sortilèges.

The summer of 2009 saw Ms. Apostolou’s debut with Vermont’s Green Mountain Opera festival as Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro and Adina in L’elisir d’amore where she “proved a brilliant Adina. Not only was her sound beautiful, she used it dramatically for just the right effect. In short, she used her voice expressively and effectively, which is what it's all about.” (Times Argus).  Also in the 2009-2010 season, Ms. Apostolou joined the European tour of Mitch Sebastian’s The Opera Show, as well as performed her first Belinda in Dido and Aeneas with
Opera Manhattan and Romilda in Xerses with Pocket Opera New York. The summer of 2010 brought her to the Caramoor Festival under the baton of Will Crutchfield as Clotilde in Norma, as well as a performer in many of the festival’s Bel Canto at Caramoor concert series.

A frequent performer of early music, Ms. Apostolou also sang the title role in Cavalli’s La Calisto with the Portland Opera and the Portland Baroque Orchestra, during which she “sparkled, using a clear and supple soprano to dash off numerous impeccable runs,” (Opera Magazine) and “sang with eloquence and shining focus” (Opera News). Ms. Apostolou recently sang the US premier of Johan Christian Bach’s Vaux Hall Songs with the New England Baroque Soloists, performed excerpts from both Purcell’s Harmonia Sacra and Vivaldi’s Bajazet with the Portland Opera and covered both Virtù and Valletto in L'incoronazione di Poppea at Central City Opera.  Ms. Apostolou made her European debut with the International Chamber Ensemble as part of the Operafestival di Roma in a Pergolesi double bill; the soprano soloist in Stabat Mater and Serpina in Pergolesi's La serva padrona.

A favorite of Portland Opera, Ms. Apostolou has also performed Ms. Wordsworth in Albert Herring, Clorinda in La Cenerentola, Frasquita in Carmen, The High Priestess in Aida, Annina in La Traviata, and Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto, while she covered Violetta, Gilda, The Governess in The Turn of the Screw, and Marzelline in Fidelio. In 2007 at Central City Opera, she sang Noémie in the youth performance of Cendrillon, and Isabelle/Madeline in The Face on the Barroom Floor, and covered Annina in The Saint of Bleecker Street under the direction of Catherine Malfitano. She also toured as Carolina in Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda with the Tulsa Opera Studio.

Ms. Apostolou was a 2010 International Grand Finalist in the Competizione Dell’Opera hosted by the Semper Oper in Dresden, Germany and subsequently performed several concerts of arias with the Bremer Philharmoniker. On the American concert stage, she has appeared with the Oregon Symphony as the soprano soloist in Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, the First Fairy in Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as Annina in excerpts from La Traviata. She’s also sung Ms. Silverpeal in The Impresario with both the Portland Chamber Orchestra and the Walla Walla Symphony, in The Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, in the Fiddlesticks concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony and in the world premier of The Lost Childhood with American Opera Projects led by Steven Osgood.

Ms. Apostolou was a 2010 Jensen Foundation Award Winner, received the Young Artist of the Year award from Central City Opera, a first place and audience prizewinner at both the Oregon and San Diego Districts, as well as an encouragement award winner at the Northwest and Western regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. She has also received awards from the Irene Dalis Competition of Opera San Jose, and The Eleanor Lieber Competition of Portland Opera.

Ms. Apostolou completed her Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music, where she was seen in a variety of roles including Blanche de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites, Zemire in Spohr’s Zemire und Azor, Nora in Vaughan Williams’ Riders to the Sea, and Vera in Hoiby’s A Month in the Country.  Ms. Apostolou holds a bachelor of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University.


Christopher Clayton Christopher Clayton - Mr. Gedge


Utah native Christopher Clayton received a Master’s Degree and Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music.

Christopher Clayton

Christopher Clayton - Mr. Gedge


Utah native Christopher Clayton received a Master’s Degree and Professional Studies Certificate at the Manhattan School of Music. Prior to his studies at the Manhattan School of Music, Mr. Clayton received a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah.

For Chautauqua Opera, Mr. Clayton performed the role of Betto in Gianni Schicchi as well as covered the roles of Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Gianni Schicchi, and the Doctor in Vanessa. He also performed in Madam Butterfly and The Music Man.

Other operatic performance highlights include the title role in Don Giovanni; Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute; Somarone in Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict; Jupiter in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and John Sorel in The Consul. Along with various recitals at the Weil Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Mr. Clayton has participated in numerous master classes with Lauren Flanigan, Catherine Malfitano, Bo Skovus and Martin Katz.

This is Mr. Clayton’s second season as a mem-ber of the Portland Opera Studio.  Last season at Portland Opera, he sang the title role in The Return Of Ulysses and on the main stage he performed the role of Wagner in Faust and the First Priest in The Magic Flute.  Recently, Mr. Clayton sang El Dancaïro in Carmen.

Hannah Sharene Penn Hannah S. Penn - The Child

Mezzo soprano

Former Portland Opera Studio Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:

Carmen, Carmen, 2007; Mercedes, Carmen, 2007; Tisbe, Cinderella, 2007; Nancy, Albert Herring, 2008; Flora Bervoix, La Traviata, 2008; Diana/Giove in Diana, La Calisto, 2009; Giovanna, Rigoletto, 2009

Mezzo-soprano Hannah Penn enjoys a diverse career as a performer of opera, oratorio, and recital literature.

Hannah S. Penn - The Child

Mezzo soprano

Former Portland Opera Studio Artist
Previously at Portland Opera:

Carmen, Carmen, 2007; Mercedes, Carmen, 2007; Tisbe, Cinderella, 2007; Nancy, Albert Herring, 2008; Flora Bervoix, La Traviata, 2008; Diana/Giove in Diana, La Calisto, 2009; Giovanna, Rigoletto, 2009

Mezzo-soprano Hannah Penn enjoys a diverse career as a performer of opera, oratorio, and recital literature.  Frequently praised for her musicality and the timbre of her voice, Ms. Penn has recently been called “…a major talent”, and “…an intelligent and wonderfully musical singer” by Portland’s Willamette Week, and was praised for having “…intriguing colors at both ends of her range” by The Oregonian.  She has performed with Florida Grand Opera, Portland Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Opera Omaha, and Gotham Chamber Opera, in addition to numerous roles with Indiana University, where she was a student for six years.  A lover of new music, Ms. Penn has performed in the American premiere tours of John Adam's El Nino and Sven-David Sandstrom's High Mass, and has been involved in the American premiers of several operas, including Anthony Davis’ Wakonda’s and David Carlson’s Anna Karenina at Florida Grand Opera. As a recitalist, Ms. Penn has participated in the Steans Institute’s Vocal Chamber Music program, where she performed works by Jake Heggie under the composer’s direction.  Ms. Penn studied German Lied for three years with renowned collaborative pianist Leonard Hokanson.  She has performed in a staged recital of Hugo Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch under the direction of the great lieder singer Hakan Hagegård, and in 2005 she participated in a masterclass on Schubert Lieder given by James Levine at Carnegie Hall.  

As a member of Portland Opera’s Studio Artist Program from 2007 to 2009, Ms. Penn sang the roles of Thisbe (La Cenerentola), Mercedes (Carmen), Flora (La Traviata), and Nancy (Albert Herring).  She also sang her first Carmen, under somewhat unusual circumstances; Ms. Penn was covering the role and went on with 24-hours notice, to critical acclaim.  The next summer she had the chance to reprise the role while making her international debut at the Teatro National Sucre in Quito, Ecuador. Operatic engagements for the 2009- 2010 season included Giovanna (Rigoletto) and Diana in Cavalli’s La Calisto, both through Portland Opera, and Cherubino with Tacoma Opera.  Ms. Penn also gave concert performances with the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra and with BodyVox, a modern dance troupe.

Ms. Penn received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Indiana University.  She finished her coursework for the Doctorate of Musical Arts at New England Conservatory this fall.


Jeffrey Beruan Jeffrey G. Beruan - Superintendent Budd


A native of Shawnee, Kansas, Jeff Beruan is very excited to be singing in his second season with Portland Opera as a Studio Artist.

Jeffrey G. Beruan - Superintendent Budd


A native of Shawnee, Kansas, Jeff Beruan is very excited to be singing in his second season with Portland Opera as a Studio Artist.  Before coming to Portland Opera, he sang for Chautauqua Opera as a Studio Artist.  He sang with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City performing the role of Snug the Joiner in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where he has also been a member of the chorus for several productions.  He repeated the role of Snug as a Young Artist with Opera North.  He worked as a Studio Apprentice with Tulsa Opera.  He also sang, as a Young Artist, the Imperial Commissioner in Madame Butterfly and the Second Armored Man in The Magic Flute with Utah Festival Opera.  

Beruan completed his Masters degree in opera performance at the University of Kansas.  He received his Bachelors degree in vocal performance from KU as well, where he was honored with the Carl Preyer Award for Outstanding Senior in Voice.  While at KU, he was actively involved in opera where he sang Dr. Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, Pistola in Falstaff, Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring, and the title role in The Mikado, among others.

Last season for Portland Opera, Beruan sang Tempo, Neptune and Antinoo in The Return of Ulysses, and the Second Armored Man in The Magic Flute.  This past spring Beruan sang Sir Roderick in Ruddigore at Mock’s Crest Productions in Portland.  This season for Portland Opera he sang Zuniga in Carmen, and will be singing King of Egypt in Aida in May.

Brenda Harris Brenda Harris - The Governess


Ms. Harris has appeared in leading roles with many of the world's most prominent opera companies and orchestras.

Brenda Harris

Brenda Harris - The Governess


Ms. Harris has appeared in leading roles with many of the world's most prominent opera companies and orchestras. She has been heard in a wide range of roles with companies such as the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Italy, the Washington National Opera, New York City Opera, Opera du Rhin in Strasbourg, Michigan Opera Theatre, Opera Pacific, the Canadian Opera Company, Edmonton Opera and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. She has been praised by critics as having “drop-dead gorgeous singing, soaring on high, glowing with mezzo-ish warmth in lower registers, nearly every phrase elegantly turned” (Dallas Morning News), as well as an “unstinting intensity, brilliant high Cs, breathtaking high-note tapers, trills, elegant tone and total dramatic commitment.” (Opera News)

Ms. Harris begins the current season singing the title role in Tosca with Opera Cleveland, and then joins the Austin Lyric Opera singing Wagner and Verdi selections in a Gala concert to mark the opening of their season. She sings Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the Austin Symphony, and a program of Verdi selections, (including La Forza del Destino and Aida) with the Jacksonville Symphony. Upcoming engagements include singing The Governess in Turn of the Screw with the Portland Opera, both Madame Cortese in Il Viaggio a Reims and Queen Elizabeth in Roberto Devereux with the Minnesota Opera, and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth with the Utah Opera.

In the 2006 – 2007 season Ms. Harris sang leading roles with opera companies across the continent, including the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos in a new production with the Utah Opera, and the title role of Norma with the Portland Opera, of which The Oregonian said “her 'Casta diva' had stillness and poise, and she negotiated the subsequent coloratura with splendid fury.” Additionally, she sang Lady MacBeth in Macbeth with the Arizona Opera and Edmonton Opera and Alice Ford in Falstaff with Fort Worth Opera. On the concert stage she sang Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow with the Buffalo Symphony, Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the New Haven Symphony, and Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-flat with the Music of the Baroque and Jane Glover. Under the baton of Joel Levy, Ms. Harris was presented in a Gala Concert with the Stichting Veerhavenconcert in Rotterdam. She was also featured in recital at Brenau University in Atlanta.

During the 2005 – 2006 season, Ms. Harris sang the title role of Vanessa with both the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Italy and the Chautauqua Opera, the title role in Mercadante's Orazi e Curiazi with Minnesota Opera, the title role of Norma with Michigan Opera Theatre, Katerina in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Austin Lyric Opera, and Violetta in La Traviata with Fort Worth Opera. With Maestro Keith Lockhart at the podium, Ms. Harris performed as Soprano Soloist in Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony with the Utah Symphony.


Notable highlights of previous seasons include portraying Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito with the Metropolitan Opera, the title role of Agrippina, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and Arminda in La Finta Giardiniera with the New York City Opera, Chrysothemis in Strauss' Elektra with Austin Lyric Opera, both the title role in Agrippina and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at the Washington National Opera, and the title role in Norma with the Minnesota Opera. With the Atlanta Opera she was the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Donna Elvira and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Desdemona in Otello, Violetta in La Traviata, and Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte. With the Chautauqua Opera she has portrayed title roles in Ariadne auf Naxos and Maria Stuarda, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, and Alice Ford in Falstaff. She has appeared with the Canadian Opera Company as Aminta in Il Re Pastore, the Montreal Opera as Donna Anna, the Edmonton Opera as both Donna Anna and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, the Vancouver Opera as Rosalinda, and the title role of Norma with the Opera de Quebec. In Europe, Ms. Harris has appeared in Spoleto, Italy as Eva in Die Meistersinger, with Opera du Rhin in Strasbourg as both Vitellia in La Clemenza di Tito and as the title role of Barber's Vanessa. On the concert stage, she has performed as a soloist with the St. Louis Symphony, The Orchestra of St. Luke's, Chicago's Music of the Baroque, Honolulu Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, and Boston Baroque, and has offered numerous concerts at Carnegie Hall with the Oratorio Society of New York.

Brenda Harris has recorded leading roles for Newport Classic, including Scarlatti's Ishmael, Haydn's La Cantarina and The Creation, and Handel's Tolomeo on the Vox label.


Listen to the Music


Mar 14, 2008
Friday 7:30 pm
Mar 16, 2008
Sunday 2:00 pm
Mar 18, 2008
Tuesday 7:30 pm
Mar 20, 2008
Thursday 7:30 pm
Mar 24, 2008
Monday 7:30 pm
Mar 26, 2008
Wednesday 7:30 pm
Mar 28, 2008
Friday 7:30 pm
Mar 30, 2008
Sunday 2:00 pm