Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde: an analysis and re-positioning for contemporary use
Nannestad, Joshua Hawkins
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Noye's Fludde is an unusual intergenerational opera by Benjamin Britten. Professional adults and amateur children together sing and play this adaptation of the Chester Mystery Play. The audience participates by singing three hymns with the cast. The resulting community experience is a lovable work for children and also a well-crafted work of twentieth century music. Passacaglia, polytonality, dodecaphony, and the influence of Japanese Noh drama and Balinese gamelan all link this work to the rest of Britten's oeuvre. It is powerful a powerful tool for music education and faith formation. American performances have declined steadily since the 1970s. The score is still quite useful, but some requirements, such as the recorder section, are increasingly difficult for contemporary productions to fulfill. Because Noye's Fludde is a unique learning and faith experience, this study advocates more frequent productions by a variety of American institutions, even if adaptations are necessary. A biographical sketch of Britten is followed by a chapter introducing Noye's Fludde, including the roots of the libretto, musical influences, reception, and performance history. Chapter three provides analysis of the opera, first by examining the central role of the hymns as motivic generators for the entire work. Tonality in large and small dimensions, the influences of Britten's recent trip to Asia, and his fondness for repetitive forms (passacaglia, theme and variations, canon) are analyzed next. Chapter three concludes with a Julius Herford-style structural analysis. Britten scored flexibly, allowing local communities to adapt as needed. Chapter four addresses the hesitation that potential conductors may feel about modifying or adapting the work. By observing the score, his alterations during Noye's Fludde and similar circumstances throughout his career, and his important Aspen speech of 1964, this study demonstrates that adaptations to casting or scoring are appropriate and were expected by Britten. The closing chapters provide a practical guide to Noye's Fludde. Because of the variation in skill levels involved, the technical requirements of each vocal and instrumental part are outlined in chapter five. Chapter six offers strategies for rehearsal and teaching the opera.
Thesis (D.M.A.)--Boston University