Alex takes the lead in new play

Alex Banfield from Morpeth.
Alex Banfield from Morpeth.

A new production of Benjamin Britten’s comic masterpiece of English village life will be brought to life this August to celebrate his centenary year.

Albert Herring, presented by Smaling and featuring Alex Banfield from Morpeth, will be at the Sage Gateshead to celebrate the composer’s anniversary but also the end of Samling Academy’s first year.

The new programme led by Samling in partnership with Newcastle University, Durham University and Sage Gateshead Weekend School, enables young singers and pianists from or studying in the north east who have the potential to pursue careers in classical music to study and perform with leading international artists and teachers.

Tenor Alex takes the title role of a shy lad in a grocer’s shop, who is forced into the limelight when the village committee decides to crown him ‘May King’. This title, usually given to a ‘May Queen’ is bestowed as no young woman of good character in the village could meet the exacting standards of Lady Billows, so poor Albert is chosen. The virtuous Albert’s crowning does not go according to plan however in this timeless coming of age story based on a novella by French writer Guy de Maupassant.

Alex, who has earned a place at the Royal Northern College of Music in September, said: “I am very excited about the whole thing. I get to work with James Baillieu, an amazing musician, with Johnny Herford a professional singer, and we have direction and coaching from Miranda Wright.”

Director Karon Wright said: “By bringing back established Samling Scholars to work alongside academy students who are beginning to ‘find their feet’, in a production from and for the north east, Samling completes a virtuous circle, embodying all that we are hopeful for in our academy.”

Albert Herring will be at the Sage Gateshead on Friday, August 16, and Saturday, August 17.

Tickets priced at £12 are available by calling (0191) 443 4661 or visiting