Barrie Harwood Photography
Pupils from schools across North Wales and Liverpool have begun rehearsals for their upcoming performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera for children on Thursday 7th July at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. Llangollen Pavilion’s vast interior looks set to swallow up an ark and 75 pairs of animals, an orchestra and 300 young singers in what will be a spectacular performance of Noye’s Fludde.
Rehearsals involving eight schools including St. Matthews Primary School – Liverpool, Christchurch School - Rhyl, Ysgol Bryn Collen, Ysgol y Gwernant – Llangollen, Rhosymedre Primary School - Rhosymedre, Ysgol Glyndyfdwy -Glyndyfdwy, Carrog School – Carrog and Ysgol Caer Drewyn – Corwen along with Côr Ieuenctid Ynys Môn – began last week
Chief Executive of Llangollen Eisteddfod, Mervyn Cousins, Musical Director and driving force behind the opera said: “We have just had our first rehearsal and the enthusiasm from the cast and the children is fantastic. The ethos of Llangollen Eisteddfod is to bring people together through the arts and we are thrilled to be able to bring members of the local community along with 300 school children together for what will be a spectacular performance.”
String, recorder, percussion, bugle and handbell players will accompany soloists, with Llangollen Eisteddfod’s President Terry Waite CBE performing as the Voice of God.
Terry Waite CBE said: “It’s wonderful that Llangollen Eisteddfod is bringing together the local community and I’m looking forward to seeing them work in ‘perfect harmony’. Performing such a fantastic opera at Llangollen Eisteddfod will no doubt be a fantastic experience for me as well as all the children”
Noye’s Fludde is based on the story of Noah’s Ark and is an early 15th century mystery play from the Chester Mystery Cycle. It was set to music by Benjamin Britten in 1957 based on an edition by Alfred W. Pollard. Britten's opera, opus number 59, was written to be performed in a church or a large hall — but not in a theatre at Britten's request — by a cast primarily of amateurs. Noye’s Fludde is the perfect production for the Eisteddfod, as although the pavilion has a theatrical stage, it is not technically a theatre and the local community will be coming together to perform Britten’s opera with a modern twist. The audience, which Britten refers to as the "congregation", will be invited to join in by singing along in the three hymns inserted into the original text.
The first performance of Noye’s Fludde was on 18 June 1958 in Orford Church, Suffolk as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, with the English Opera Group and a local cast. The first production included a young Michael Crawford OBE, who went on to international success. He said of working on Noye’s Fludde: "If it had not been for Benjamin Britten, I wouldn't have been an actor. He gave me belief, self belief." Crawford sent a message to the cast of the Eisteddfod production. ‘"It is great that children are still encouraged to perform this wonderful opera, I wish them all the very best...and break a leg. It is a shame I can’t make it up North Wales for the performance."
Another member of the original cast, Jannette Heffernan (née Miller), sent her good wishes to the International Eisteddfod from New Zealand. “When I was cast in the role of Mrs Sem in 1958, I never thought that the opera would still be performed over 50 years later or that it would change my life. I’m sure that the performance at Llangollen Pavilion will be fantastic, and I only wish that I could be there to watch.”