An opera about the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark will help raise money for flood victims in St Asaph.
The two performances of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde at the North Wales International Music Festival were planned long before last year’s devastating deluge.
After consulting the town council, festival organisers decided it would be appropriate to use the occasion for the benefit of the people who were affected.
The production by Mid Wales Opera will be on the opening day of the festival at St Asaph Cathedral on Friday, September 20.
The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, a talented mezzo soprano, will play one of the leading roles. Also taking part will be schoolchildren from six different primary schools and three high schools.
More than 400 homes of the Denbighshire city were flooded and hundreds evacuated last November after the River Elwy burst its banks.
The Mayor of St Asaph, Cllr John Roberts, is delighted with the gesture of donating the collection at the end of the performance to the Flood Appeal.
He said: “Donating the retiring collection following the performances of Noye’s Fludde to the St Asaph Flood Appeal is a wonderful gesture by festival organisers and something we welcome very much.
“It comes as we are preparing the third and final distribution of funds. The appeal has already raised more than £185,000 which is a massive amount of money.
“It is sheer coincidence that Noye’s Fludde will be performed at the festival so soon after we suffered last year’s awful flooding. However, the festival programme is organised more than a year in advance.
“The North Wales International Music festival, which has such a tremendous reputation, is something I support very strongly.
“It provides a wonderful boost to tourism and brings people to St Asaph from right around the UK, which is something we welcome.”
This year’s festival will also feature the premiere of a new work by of one of the UK’s brightest musical talents, royal composer Paul Mealor.
Prof Mealor has been commissioned jointly by the festival – which is supported by the Welsh Arts Council – and London-based Holywell Music, one of Europe’s leading harp suppliers to write a new choral work to celebrate the Prince of Wales’s 65th birthday.
The Prince’s first official harpist, international star Catrin Finch, and the current royal harpist, Hannah Stone, will both accompany the performance.
The premiere will be one of many highlights to be provided by a stellar line-up that also includes the Swingle Singers, virtuoso pianist Peter Donohoe, historical performance ensemble La Serenissima and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
The two performances of Noye’s Fludde are in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, one of Britain’s most loved composers who used the words from the Chester Miracle play.
The opera tells the biblical story of Noah’s Ark with the addition of climate change protesters and characters being developed such as the dysfunctional and mocking Mrs Noah.
The opera will be performed at a matinee and evening performance by Mid Wales Opera alongside local schoolchildren on Friday, September 20.
Ann Atkinson explained: “Plans were already in place to have a flavour of Britten in this year’s festival long before last year’s horrendous flooding occurred.
“But we thought holding a retiring collection in support of the Mayor’s Appeal would be a good way to show our support.
“Noye’s Fludde is a wonderful opera which Britten wrote for a small concertino of professional musicians playing alongside an amateur ensemble. And there are only two professional singers in the opera.
“Noah is played by New Zealand baritone James Harrison, while I play his somewhat difficult wife, Mrs Noah.
“The whole production by director Clare Williams is something of a ground-breaking project which has toured the length and breadth of Wales. However, the North Wales International Music festival will be the tour’s final performance.
“The idea has been to involve as many children as we can into each performance and St Asaph is no different.
“We have schoolchildren from six primary schools from the St Asaph area, Trefnant, Cefn Meiriadog and Tremerchion and three secondary schools, Bryn Hyfryd, Ruthin, Bryn Elian, Colwyn Bay and Ysgol Glan Clwyd, taking part.”
Many schools and the Williams Mathias Music Centre are represented in the orchestra and the sons and wives will be sung by members of the St Asaph Cathedral Choir.
Ann, who lives in Corwen, said: “Basically, poor old Noah is worried about the environment when God speaks to him and tells him to build an ark.
“Noah’s marriage is not going well and his wife, Mrs Noah, mocks him and has to be carried on to the ark after refusing to get on herself.
“Children play the role of the animals while some will be playing in the orchestra. Older children from the secondary school will take on the role of climate change protesters greeting the audience as they arrive at the cathedral.
“They certainly did a good job at a performance in Brecon as someone called the police in the belief a real protest was under way!
“It’s a really good opportunity however, to enthuse youngsters and to give them a chance to be involved in something a little bit special.”
She added: “Britten adapted the Olde English text of the 15th Century Chester Miracle Play and wrote the music around it. He actually requested that it should not be performed in a theatre but only in a church or cathedral.”
According to Ann, there is still the opportunity for young people interested in getting involved in the project to do so.
She said: “We have begun rehearsing and welcome any young musicians or actors who would like to get involved. Anyone interested can contact me for details.
“It really is a wonderful opera written so children can not only perform in it but clearly understand the message Britten was trying to get across.
“I’m delighted we have been able to include two performances into this year’s North Wales International Music Festival by beginning the festival a day early on the Friday.”
Anyone interested in joining in rehearsals for Noye’s Fludde should contact Ann Atkinson on 01745 584508 or visit the website www.nwimf.com.