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KNOXVILLE — “Want virgins, not trollops” is a fervent wish of Lady Billows, an indomitable if misguided main character in “Albert Herring,” one of the true operatic comedies of the 20th century. Will Albert Herring, the ultimate mama’s boy chosen against his will as the symbol of virtue for a small Victorian town, live up to expectations when all of the village girls are deemed unworthy by Lady Billows?

Tickets are now on sale for the UT Opera Theatre production of Benjamin Britten’s comic-opera masterpiece, “Albert Herring,” with performances Saturday, April 9, through Monday, April 11, at the Bijou Theatre.

The production is part of the Knoxville Rossini Festival, which also features a free Italian street fair from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 9, on Gay Street and Market Square, and Knoxville Opera performances of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera “I puritani (The Puritans)” Friday, April 8, and Sunday, April 10, at the Tennessee Theatre.

“‘Albert Herring’ is a great delight,” said Michael McConnell, director of the UT Opera Theatre. “It’s a masterpiece for any age. Its whimsical plot, delightful characters and sparkling score make it a real treat for audiences and performers. We’re always thrilled when a great teaching piece also provides such a keen performance experience for our audience.”

Set at the close of England’s Victorian era, the opera tells of the determination of Lady Billows and of her quest to pull the community of Loxford back from the jaws of moral degradation into which she fears it is about to tumble. Her master plan includes a revival of the May Day Festival of yore, a celebration of virtue capped when the town’s worthiest girl is crowned Queen of the May. After the discovery that the village is without a virgin, it is suggested that the ultimate symbol of virtue would be better represented by a May King, the perfect candidate for which exists in the person of Albert Herring.

Since its 1947 Glyndebourne Festival Opera premiere, “Albert Herring” has been one of the repertoire’s most charming and enduring chamber operas.

Kevin Class conducts and Michael McConnell directs faculty guest artist, Andrew Wentzel, and an exemplary cast of talented student performers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s voice and orchestral programs.

Performances of “Albert Herring” are set for 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 9, 8 p.m. Sunday, April 10, and 8 p.m. Monday, April 11.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students. For tickets, call 865-656-4444 or 865-684-1200 or go online at (service fees may apply).

For more information on the Rossini Festival, visit