Noye's Fludde (Noah's Flood), Op. 59, is a 1957 opera by Benjamin Britten. The text is based on an edition by Alfred W. Pollard of an early 15th-century mystery play from the Chester Mystery Cycle. The opera is written to be performed by a cast primarily of amateurs, and Britten requested it be performed in a church or a large hall but not in a theatre.
Like a Baroque concerto grosso, the orchestra calls for a small concertino ensemble of professionals, consisting of string quintet, recorder, piano (four hands), organ, and timpani. The amateur ripieno orchestra calls for strings, recorders, bugles, hand-bells, and percussion. The audience, which Britten refers to as the "congregation", is invited to join in by singing along in the three hymns inserted into the original text.
The first performance was on 18 June 1958 in Orford Church, Suffolk, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, with the English Opera Group and a local cast. Owen Brannigan sang Noye, and the conductor was Charles Mackerras.
Performance history 
Quickly following the premiere performances, Associated Television (a British television company) broadcast a relay of the performance on 22 June. The next four performances took place over two days in November 1958 in Southwark Cathedral, featuring the same principals as the première; all four pages of the programme are reproduced on the Noye's Fludde Harpenden blog.
There soon followed further performances, appropriately in St. Johns Church Chester, in March 1959 with Jolyon Dodgson in the title role.
In the United States, the opera was heard on the radio in New York City on 31 July 1958 and, also in New York in the School of Sacred Music of Union Theological Seminary on 16 March 1959, the US premiere was given.
Performances have been and are presented fairly frequently by community organizations in churches and schools. One of the early US productions of this type was given at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia under the direction of John Langstaff who later founded the Christmas Revels group in 1971, but who presented the first of such entertainments in 1957.
Later performances by community groups have included those in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York  and by Revels, Inc. directed by Paddy Swanson on 5 and 6 March 2004 presented at First Congregational Church Cambridge. In February 2009, the opera was given by the Cantata Singers of Boston and, on 7 March 2009, a free community event was presented by the Los Angeles Opera under the direction of James Conlon and with Noye and Mrs. Noye sung by James Johnson and Beth Clayton respectively. In 2004, the opera was performed by the Scottish Borders Community Orchestra in the Victoria Halls of Selkirk with around 300 schoolchildren attending. In 2006 350 students from St. Peter's RC School, Solihull, together with pupils from five Primary feeder schools took part in a performance, directed by Stephen Lansberry, in Olton Friary Solihull.
It was presented in the UK in March 2010 at Brentwood Cathedral.
In recent years, the opera was presented at the Teatro Villamarta in Jerez, Spain in 2008 and other performances by European opera companies were presented in May 2010 at the Theater der Stadt Heidelberg and Staatstheater Darmstadt. 
In August 2012, Noye's Fludde became the first opera to be produced in a zoo: this was a co-production by NI Opera and the KT Wong Foundation, in Belfast Zoo, directed by Oliver Mears and conducted by Nicholas Chalmers, with Paul Carey Jones as Noye and Doreen Curran as Mrs Noye. The same production was also performed in October 2012 at the Beijing Music Festival. This was the Chinese premiere of the work, and the first full performance of a Britten opera in China.
Britten centenary year performances
The opera was performed on February 23 and 24 2013 in London, at Blackheath Halls, with a cast and orchestra of local children and young people led by some of the UK’s top professional operatic artists.
The Britten-Pears Foundation and Harpenden Music Foundation are supporting two performances that will take place in St Nicholas' Parish Church, Harpenden, on 28 and 29 June 2013. Rehearsals began on February 10. The cast, orchestra and production team are all drawn from the local community. Miles Golding and Catherine Denley are co-producing; Catherine Denley and Bernadette Stewart are co-directing. There is a dedicated website and blog.
A production in Tewkesbury Abbey will be given in July 2013 by the Cheltenham Music Festival, performed "in the round" with designs by children's book illustrator James Mayhew. 
As part of the celebrations, The Santa Fe Opera will present two family-oriented programs on 10 and 11 August 2013 in O'Shaughnessy Hall, one of the main rehearsal halls on the Opera grounds. The audience will view the performance from the lawn. Other performances will be given in Santa Fe and Albuquerque in November 2013.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 18 June 1958
(Conductor: Charles Mackerras)
|Voice of God||spoken role||Trevor Anthony|
|Mrs. Noye||contralto||Gladys Parr|
|Mrs. Sem||girl soprano||Janette Miller|
|Mrs. Ham||girl soprano||Katherine Dyson|
|Mrs. Jaffett||girl soprano||Marilyn Baker|
|Mrs. Noye's Gossips||girl sopranos|
|Children's chorus of animals and birds; congregation|
Noye's Fludde opens with the congregation singing "Lord Jesus, think on me" as Noye enters. The spoken Voice of God tells Noye to build "a shippe". Noye agrees and calls on his family to help. His sons and their wives enter with tools and materials and begin, but Mrs Noye and her Gossips (close friends) mock the project. The cast build the ark on stage.
God tells Noye to fill the Ark with animals, and they enter in groups from all parts of the church, singing or squeaking "Kyrie eleison!" Noye orders his family to board, but Mrs Noye and the Gossips refuse, preferring to drink; the sons carry Mrs Noye on (she slaps Noye's face). Rain begins (roughly tuned teacups called "slung mugs" are struck to give the sound of the first raindrops), building to a great storm. The storm is represented by a passacaglia in which each statement of the theme a new aspect of the storm is represented: for example, trills in the recorders represent the wind and scales in the string section signify waves. At the height of the passacaglia, the congregation sings "Eternal Father, Strong to Save", a Victorian naval hymn by John B. Dykes. When it is calm, Noye sends out a raven saying "If this fowl come not again it is a sign sooth to say, that dry it is on hill or plain." This is a dancer, accompanied by a cello; he never returns. Noye, now knowing that the raven has discovered dry land, sends out a dove accompanied by a solo recorder (played with fluttering tongue to imitate a dove's cooing), which brings back an olive branch. Everyone leaves the Ark, singing "Alleluia" accompanied by bugle fanfares. To the sound of handbells, God promises never to send another flood, with the rainbow as a sign. The cast file out singing Addison's "The spacious firmament on high" to Tallis's Canon, leaving Noye alone to receive God's blessing.
Voice of God
Opera House and Orchestra
|Norman Del Mar,
English Chamber Orchestra - An East Suffolk Children's
Orchestra and Children's Chorus
|Audio CD: Decca (London),
Cat: 425 161-2
Decca, Cat: 436 397-2
(Also contains a recording of
Britten's The Golden Vanity).
Orchestra and Chorus of Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium.
(Recording of a performance given in a German translation by Ludwig Landgraf).
Cat: 53 754
|2007||José Antonio López,
Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid.
(Sung in a Spanish version under the title El Diluvio de Noé)
|Audio CD: DG,
- In "Performance Information" on brittenpears.org Retrieved 10 January 2010
- Noye's Fludde Harpenden blog
- Kennedy, Michael, "Benjamin Britten", in Holden, p. 130
- Bernard Holland, "Children Sing 'Noye's Fludde' By Britten", The New York Times, 23 May 1988 Retrieved 10 January 2010
- Paddy Swanson email 11 January 2010; see Paddy Swanson page on Revels.org. Retrieved 11 January 2010
- Performances since 2008 on Operabase.com Retrieved 10 January 2010
- "NI Opera - "Noye’s Fludde gets a big thumbs up from audiences of all ages"".
- "KT Wong Foundation - "Noye's Fludde to feature at the 15th Beijing Music Festival"".
- Trinity Laban performances February 2013
- Britten-Pears Foundation website
- Harpenden Music Foundation website
- Noye's Fludde Harpenden website
- Cheltenham Festival website programme announcement
- Santa Fe Opera's website
- "Family Opera: Noah's Flood", Crescendo: The Magazine of The Santa Fe Opera, Spring 2013, p. 8
- Recordings source: operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- The Thirde Pageante of Noyes Fludd as presented by the Waterleaders and Drawers of Dee.