Inherited stories of floods can be found across the world, and as far back as thousands of years ago. Of all the musical settings, Benjamin Britten’s community opera Noye’s Fludde is one of the best loved and most played abroad. Here, we unite children and adults, professional and amateur musicians, in a beloved dramatisation of the Bible’s story about Noah who saves people and animals from a great natural disaster.
The hugely popular medieval mystery plays performed for and by amateurs fascinated Benjamin Britten. In an article, he contemplated the special joy of creating music for children or amateurs – “it is not a bad thing for an artist to try to serve all sorts of different people” – and the opera Noye’s Fludde, Noah’s flood, from 1957 is a strong expression of that. It was written for a mix of amateurs, children of different ages and professional musicians.
The mystery plays usually contained biblical material. The events of Easter week were a common theme, but the text is quite different here. In Genesis, we encounter Noah, the most righteous man of his generation, who receives meticulous instructions from God for how to build a floating craft, a vessel, to save his family and all the animals from the global flood sent to punish mankind for their treatment of the Earth.
In the English city of Chester, during the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, a total of 24 plays were performed on the same day by representatives of the city’s various trade or craft guilds. The actors performed on large carts that were pulled from street to street so that they could be enjoyed by everyone and one of the plays was Noye’s Fludde. Britten used the Chester text as the basis for the libretto after coming across it in a 19th century collection of mystery plays and supplemented it with liturgical songs such as Lord Jesus, Think On Me and various Anglican hymns.
Britten took pains to ensure that the opera should be performed in churches or large meeting halls, not in theatres or opera houses; it has even been performed in zoological gardens. A children’s choir represents the animals that march into and out of the Ark. The events are narrated by the voice of God. Only Noah and his wife are sung by professional singers; the rest of the roles are performed by children and adolescents. A small professional ensemble is at the head of the large orchestra which also includes unusual instruments such as bugles, mugs and handbells to illustrate the animals’ entry into the Ark, falling rain and a rainbow, signifying God’s promise to never flood the Earth again.
A ballet scene depicts how the raven reveals that land has been discovered by failing to return to the Ark; in contrast to the dove that does return, with an olive branch in its beak. The dove’s melody is then played backwards compared to when it flew out. A nice little detail, typical of Britten’s ingenuity.
Text: Gunnar Lanzky-Otto
The Adolf Fredrik Church’s Treble Choir is made up of children aged 9–12. The choir has a high level of ambition and performs single as well as multi-part works for treble chorus. The choir performs on its own, as well as together with a pianist or organist, various instrumental ensembles or orchestras. Their repertoire is aimed at the classic choral tradition but also includes jazz, folk songs, traditional music, etc. The choir is led by Isabel Josephson.
The Adolf Fredrik Church’s Youth Choir is made up of children aged 14–18. The choir performs classic and newly written a cappella music, as well as major works, together with soloists and large or small orchestras. The Chamber Choir has been collaborating with El Sistema Stockholm since 2013 and is one of the organisation’s collaborative ensembles together with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Choir, the Royal College of Music, and many others. The choir is led by Christoffer Holgersson.
Youth choir Chorista consists of young people in secondary and upper secondary school who are interested in singing. The choir performs at services and concerts in the Uppenbarelsekyrkan Church in Hägersten, and travels to concerts too. The choir is led by Karin Börjeson.
Stockholm’s Ungdomssymfoniorkester (Stockholm Youth Symphony Orchestra) consists of dedicated young musicians who have come a long way in their music tutelage. Indeed, many of them are in the final stages of their education before undertaking further studies at the College of Music. The orchestra was founded in 1978 and fulfils an important role in the Stockholm music scene, as well as in developing the musical skill of its members. The orchestra previously performed its own subscription concerts at Konserthuset Stockholm and now holds regular concerts at Musikaliska, as well as performances at other venues in the county. They have also toured extensively and played in countries including Egypt, China, the Czech Republic, Spain, Austria and Portugal. Glenn Mossop from Canada has conducted the orchestra since 2005.
Västerorts Ungdomssymfoniker (the Västerort Youth Orchestra) is a symphony orchestra within the Stockholm School of the Arts with around 40 young musicians between the ages of 13 and 22. The teaching is conducted by professional teachers within all instrument groups and it has been performing since the 1960s. The orchestra’s repertoire includes both classic works by Antonín Dvořák, W. A. Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns and Lars-Erik Larsson, as well as popular music and film music. They have performed in many parts of the country as well as on tour in Finland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
Andreas Hanson is a well-established concert and opera conductor who has conducted the major Swedish orchestras as well as made notable foreign guest appearances in countries such as Russia, England, Poland and Lithuania. He has conducted several performances at Folkoperan and the Royal Swedish Opera, including Menotti’s Ahmal and the Night Visitors, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro as well as ballets such as The Nutcracker and L’occasione fa il ladro. He made his debut in 2000 as a conductor at The BBC Proms. He is the artistic advisor for children’s and youth activities at the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and band master of the Royal Swedish Army Band. Recently, he has performed with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and Västerås Sinfonietta, as well as with the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Johan Schinkler trained at the University College of Opera in Stockholm. He has worked here in Sweden at Folkoperan, Wermland Opera, Göteborgsoperan, and Dalhalla, and at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet in Riga. His repertoire includes great opera roles such as Mephistopheles in Gounod’s Faust, the eponymous role in Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, Fafner in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, as well as Hagen in both that and Götterdämmerung. He has also played Molokov in musical Chess, and performed as Mufasa in the Swedish version of Disney’s Lion King, and as the First Ancestor in the Swedish version of Mulan. In 2008, he was awarded the Friends of Folkoperan’s soloist grant. As a concert singer, he has also performed Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s St John Passion.
Ulrika Tenstam made a magnificent debut as Clytemnestra in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide at the Drottningholms Slottsteater theatre, and got her big break as Delilah in Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah. Her opera repertoire includes the great mezzo-soprano roles such as Marcellina in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Melibea in Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims, and Nicklausse in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann. In 2017, she performed as Anna in Sven-David Sandström’s Under the Heart of a Woman at a noted production by Piteå’s church opera. She has also performed pure acting roles, such as in Herr Molière Går Igen!, choreographed productions such as Mahler’s Das Lied von Der Erde with the Hong Kong Dance Company, and demanding works like MacBeth2 by Jan Sandström, Zarah by Anders Nilsson, and Alban Berg’s Lulu. Her concerto repertoire includes both romances and chamber music, as well as the great symphonies and oratorios.
Tomas Bolme is one of Sweden’s best loved actors. He was one of the driving members in free theatre group Fria Proteatern from 1971 to 1990, and has been the president of both the Swedish Union for Performing Arts and Film, and the International Federation of Actors. On stage, he has performed in Molière’s Tartuffe and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, as well as Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène and musicals Zorba! and Fiddler on the Roof. He has had a long line of TV and film roles since the 1950s, both as an actor and as a voice artist; he is well-known as the Swedish voice of cartoon character Tintin. He has also recorded novels such as Maria Gripe’s The Dung-Beetle Flies at Dusk, Michail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and many of Jan Guillou’s novels.
Born and raised in Varuträsk, Skellefteå, young soprano Hanna Lindberg is currently studying at The Royale College of Music in Stockholm. She is since 2013 a member of Adolf Fredrik Church’s Chamber choir, conducted by Christoffer Holgersson.
Karin Blom, born in 1996, has just finished two years of study at Vadstena song and piano academy. During the spring 2019 she was the first to receive the Otto Lindblad-scholarship. Karin grew up in Stockholm , where she sang in several choirs such as Adolf Fredrik Church’s Chamber Choir and Mikaeli Chamber Choir. This summer she participated as a choir member in Telemann’s opera ”Orpheus”, at the Vadstena-Academy.
Sally Lundgren in a Swedish mezzo-soprano, born in Stockholm 1995. She is currently starting her third year of her Bachelor of music at the Royal Academy of Music, with Kate Paterson as her teacher. At the Academy she has been engaged as a chorister in the Bach Cantata series, Bach the European and the Academy’s chamber choir. She has also been a soloist in the Academy’s concert series at the Italian Cultural Institute. During the spring of 2019 she was an opera chorister in RAO’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges. This summer she has been part of the concert series Musik i sommarkväll in Vaxholm’s church.
After her graduation she aims to take her master’s degree in opera, hopefully in the UK, Sweden or Germany. As she has her special interest in singing and interpret art songs, she wishes to make the Swedish and Scandinavian art song heritage available to a new audience. Another dream is to research equality and gender in musicology.
Klara Nilsson, 22 years old, orginates from Alafors outside of Gothenburg and has studied classical singing during the years of 2016-2018. She has since many years been active as a soloist in among others Rutters requriem, Faurés requiem and St John Passion by Chilcott. Today she is a soprano in Hägersten A Capella where she is a frequent soloist and sees herself in a future where music is her fulltime engagement.
Sofia Lärkfors (b. 1994) grew up in Sundsvall but since the age of 16 she has studied and been active in the music scenes around Stockholm. Since 2016 she has been studying at the Royal College of Music’s jazz department but moves seamlessly and unobstructed between the genre boundaries. She is active as a singer and composer in her own name as well as in classical choir context such as Hägersten A Cappella.
Maria Peterson is a trained designer and costume designer at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts and the art school Stenebyskolan. She has worked as a costume designer on Jani Lohikari’s Landet Ensamheten at Uppsala Stadsteater, Peter Weiss’ The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat and Anna Vnuk’s Möta hösten tillsammans?. She participated in the Swedish Biennial for the Performing Arts in 2015 and has had her own exhibitions at Hjälmarstrand Art Gallery and Säfstaholm Castle, as well as having been awarded several scholarships for her artistic work.
The dancer and choreographer Sara Ribbenstedt has performed with the opera company Kamraterna in their staging of Renard by Igor Stravinsky and Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, as well as in the choreographer Anna Vnuk’s play Möta hösten tillsammans? at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. She has also performed in the acclaimed Nils Holgersson by Susanne Marko and Leif Stinnerbom at Västanå Teater, and in the Malmö-based wecollective’s performance LÅR. She studied at the School of Dance and Circus in Stockholm.
Per Rydnert is a video designer and has almost 20 years of experience in using moving images in various artistic contexts. In recent years, he has specialized in video projections and video scene experiences. He has worked with several of our most beloved artists and performing artists while creating the video content for the Eurovision Song Contest, set up entire performances with Cirkus Cirkör, entertained the Nobel Dinner guests in the Blue Hall and gave life to the rock walls in Dalhalla. This fall, he is among other things with the new premiere of Bluebeards’s Castle and Erwartung in David Geffen Hall in New York. Participants include the New York Philharmonic and soprano Nina Stemme and Catherine Karnéus. Per Rydnert has previously been active under the name Visual Relief which he until recently shared with his friend and colleague Johannes Ferm Winkler.
The actor and director Dan Turdén’s roles have included Lambert in Harold Pinter’s Celebration and Benjamin in Strindberg’s Easter. In 2006, he founded the theatre company Kamraterna, which has staged Harold Pinter’s The Lover, Thomas Brussig’s Heroes Like Us, as well as operas such as Mozart’s Zaide and Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief, which Turdén directed. More recently, they staged a much discussed performance of Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins as well as Stravinsky’s Renard///.