CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 10, 2011 — The Southeast Missouri Music Academy is reviving the wonderful children’s opera, “Noye’s Fludde,” Benjamin Britten’s interpretation of the story of Noah, May 21-22 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.
The opera was first performed by the Music Academy in 2003, and again in 2004.
The performances of “Noye’s Fludde” will feature a cast of about 60 children from 22 regional schools and several adults from around the region. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 21 and 2 p.m. May 22. Tickets are $ 9 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and can be purchased in advance by calling Elite Travel at (573) 334 -1234, or at the door.
The costumed performances will include children and young adults ages 5 to 22. The children’s opera will feature performance units as diverse as a string orchestra, a recorder consort, a percussion battery, a handbell choir, bugle corps, recorder consort and animal chorus. Accomplished musicians from Southeast Missouri State University are working with the children in preparation for the performances.
“The more you ask of children, the more they will give,” said Hays Hendricks, director of the production. “This is an opportunity to provide a high quality musical experience for young people from across the region and to raise awareness that children really can perform high level music and rise to the level you ask of them.”
Hendricks said children will play the roles of 15 pairs of animals, including mice, lions, leopards and polecats.
“It is going to be an extravaganza,” she said.
The cast and those playing the lead roles began rehearsing in February. Performing lead roles are Levi Kempf, Nathaniel Zeiger, Steven Hendricks, Nia Johnson and Ellen Wang, all of Cape Girardeau, and Chloe Kasten of Jackson. Also participating are Cat Goeke, Ben Hendricks and Abbie Fieser, area college students who had significant roles in the first production.
“A production like this is always a stretch for anyone wanting to present it, in part because of the numbers involved and in part because of the age of the performers,” said Jeff Noonan, associate professor of music. “Nonetheless, an opera like ‘Noye’s Fludde’ offers us an opportunity to involve the community–adults, teens and children–in an artistic endeavor that can be both entertaining and edifying.”
“‘Noye’s Fludde’ will be a real opportunity to bring a wider part of the Cape Girardeau community onto the River Campus and into the theater in a whole new way,” said Jeff Noonan, associate professor of music. “These children singers and instrumentalists will come into the Bedell and be on its stage. It seems to me to be a great opportunity to introduce these young musicians not just to stage productions but also to our particular stage at the River Campus.
“The participation of these kids and their parents in this one show gives them a claim on the River Campus and a relationship to the River Campus that they would not get by just sitting in the audience for 10 shows,” Noonan said. “We’re not just bringing them into the theater–we’re putting them on our stage and giving them the experience of working in a professional theater space from the inside. The River Campus community–faculty, students and staff–gets a new potential audience for its productions for years to come and the community–the kids and their parents–get to see a side of the performing arts not usually available. It seems to me that everyone wins on this one.”
Music Academy Director Rebecca Fulgham says a new feature is being added with this performance. A Sunday brunch will be held in the John and Betty Glenn Convocation Center, which will feature a fashion show and silent auction. Some of Noye’s animals also will be in attendance. Tickets for the brunch are $15, children 3 and under are free. The 1958 opera is based on 13th century Chester Miracle Plays originally performed by local Craft Guilds from the local church or cathedral. Miracle plays lasted from sunrise to sunset, and Guilds performed them on a mobile cart called a “pageant,” which moved around the town. The plays were named the Chester Miracle Plays because of the city in which they were performed from 1475 to 1500.
Britten, who wrote the opera “Noye’s Fludde,” became known as one of the greatest of the generation of English composers which followed the so-called English Musical Renaissance of the early 20th century. He frequently based his work on the conflict between a simple man and corrupt society, a theme present in “Noye’s Fludde.” In this performance, the innocent children and animals present a strong contrast to the wickedness of the society destroyed by God in the flood. The original Chester Miracle play contained 49 different species of animals. Britten used 35 kinds of animals in pairs in the first production of “Noye’s Fludde.”
The music for the production was written for both amateur and professional players. Britten added unusual instruments, such as handbells, and cups and mugs slung on string by their handles to form a rough scale. Performers hit them with wooden spoons to produce the sound of the first raindrops hitting the roof of the ark.
Britten was born in 1913 in the North Sea coastal town of Lowestoft, East Anglia. He began composing as a child, encouraged by his mother do to so. In addition to his operas, Britten wrote a large repertoire of orchestral music, chamber music, songs and song arrangements, secular and church parables and canticles, and non-operatic music dramas, works for solo instruments, and incidental music for films, radio dramas and plays.
Britten moved to America in 1937 to escape the war approaching in Europe. Love of his homeland remained constant, however, and he continued to write music concerned with Britain and British subjects. In 1943, he returned home to finish work on his opera “Peter Grimes,” one of the most popular of all 20th century operas. Later, Britten would become largely responsible for the Aldeburgh Festival, which served primarily as a showcase for English operas. Many of Britten’s operas premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival.
Britten came to Aspen in July 1964 to receive the first ever Aspen award, a $3,000 prize given by the chairman of the Institute of Humanistic Studies to honor an individual anywhere in the world “judged to have made the greatest contribution to the advancement of the humanities.” In 1976, the year of his death, Queen Elizabeth II elevated Britten to a life peerage, honoring his service to British music.
The Southeast Missouri Music Academy at Southeast Missouri State University is dedicated to enriching the lives of its students by stimulating a lifelong appreciation of music.
For more information on the Music Academy’s performances of “Noye’s Fludde,” call the Southeast Missouri Music Academy at (573) 651-2378.