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1001 Stories Collection

Noye's Fludde

1001 Noyes Fludde
Added on 13th August 2020

Composer Benjamin Brittain
First performance 1958, Church of St Bartholomew, Oxford

1001

A one act opera telling the story of Noah's ark designed as a community opera with the majority of parts written for young singers and children.

Story

Noye's Fludde is a one act opera which tells the Old Testament Bible story of Noah's ark. When God decides to wash away sinful mankind by sending a great flood to destroy life on earth, he instructs Noah to build an ark and to save his family and two of every living creature so that they can repopulate the earth once the flood has receded.

Why we chose it

The story of Noah's ark with all the animals and the image of the rainbow at the end symbolising hope and renewal is a much loved and well-known story. Britten's musical version of the story is designed as a 'community opera' with opportunities for audience participation. The majority of the parts are written for young amateur singers, with children playing the parts of the animals, as well as Noah's children. Only the roles of Noah and his wife were written for professional singers. Similarly the orchestra is designed for a small professional ensemble supplemented with a wide range of additional parts for amateur musicians, including parts for recorders and teacups!

Where it came from

The libretto is based on a 15th century Chester Mystery Play. Britten keeps the comic elements of the traditional mystery plays, including a gossipy, grumpy Mrs Noah who refuses to get on to the Ark until she's dragged on board by her sons. The music is also very atmospheric: the animals each have their own theme as they enter the ark reflecting their characteristics and the Britten uses the orchestration to great effect to conjure the sound of the approaching storm and the start of the rain before it builds to the climax of the flood.

Britten wrote the opera for the Aldeburgh Festival in 1958 and specified that it should be performed in churches or large halls rather than in concert halls or opera houses.

Where it went next

The opera proved an instant success with many groups putting on their own performances. The well known story and the predominantly young cast provide a first-introduction to many children to the world of opera.

Associated stories

Benjamin Britten was very interested in encouraging children and young people to engage with modern classical music. He wrote the very popular piece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which showcases each instrument in a traditional orchestra. His first work for amateur singers (with a professional Tenor) was the cantata St Nicholas performed at Aldeburgh in 1948. He also drew on other Biblical stories for The Church Parables written in 1960s.

Added on 13th August 2020

Composer Benjamin Brittain
First performance 1958, Church of St Bartholomew, Oxford

1001