In their first ever co-production, pioneering theatre company Slung Low andclassical music ensemble Manchester Collective come together to present a full-scale production of Benjamin Britten’s much-loved community opera, Noah’s Flood, as part of LEEDS 2023 and Manchester International Festival 2023. In this vibrant staging director Alan Lane tells a story of hope and survival, featuring Lemn Sissay as the voice of God and a cast of hundreds of young performers drawn from communities in Holbeck in Leeds and Manchester.
Premiered in 1958, Noah’s Flood (or Noye’s Fludde) is based on a 15th-century mystery play which recounts the Old Testament story of Noah’s Ark. Britten wanted the opera to bring communities together and created parts for as many performers as possible – no matter their musical experience. This production stays true to that vision. Family-friendly and open to all, Noah’s Flood showcases the world-class musicianship of Manchester Collective, alongside 180 schoolchildren from Ingram Road Primary School in Holbeck and young musicians from Olympias Music Foundation (OMF), amongst others.
The project is part of an on-going partnership aiming to give young people from Leeds and Greater Manchester, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, exceptional musical experiences. The staged production will see the children don nearly a hundred different animal costumes – depicting both real and imagined creatures. A series of public workshops for adults to get involved and learn skills in costume making, make up and video projection will take place in Holbeck throughout April and May.
The project will culminate in two live performances of the opera – the first bringing together communities in Leeds at The Warehouse in Holbeck as part of the LEEDS 2023 year of culture programme (Friday 7 July), and the second as part of Manchester International Festival at the newly-opened and much-anticipated venue Factory International(Sunday 9 July). The live performance includes a host of unusual ‘instruments’ – including wind machines, bugles and an organ – while three congregational hymns give the audience an opportunity for their collective voices to be heard.
Adam Szabo, Artistic Director & Chief Executive, Manchester Collective said: “Noah’s Flood is a totally unique work – it’s part of a rich operatic tradition, but with sharing, inclusion and community at its beating heart. A joyful spirit of collaboration runs through the piece, making it the ideal debut for Manchester Collective and Slung Low to perform at LEEDS 2023 and MIF23. This production will showcase British opera at its very finest, made in the north, for the people, by the people.”
Alan Lane, Artistic Director, Slung Low said: “It’s rare to get the chance to work with so many partners who share your values but with Noah’s Flood we are so lucky. All of us working on this project, in our own ways, believe passionately in the need for the arts to reach every part of our communities, of our cities and of our nation. And so, from Holbeck, an amazing place in South Leeds full of creativity and magic but with the worst health outcomes of any ward in England and facing so many of the challenges that blight too much of Britain, 180 of the most creative primary schoolchildren will don animal costumes and make their way to perform with the amazing Manchester Collective and Lemn Sissay in the most impressive, newest theatre in the UK. And if that isn’t living your best values through the work that you make, then I don’t know what is.”
The opera will be conducted by Nicholas Chalmers, starring Morgan Pearse as Noah and Heather Lowe as Mrs Noah. The creative team bringing the production to life includes Heledd Rees (costume designer), Lucy Hind (movement director), Wayne Sables (video designer), and Chris Davey (lighting designer). Noah’s Flood is a Slung Low and Manchester Collective co-production in association with Leeds People’s Theatre, Ingram Road Primary School, LEEDS 2023 and Factory International for Manchester International Festival.
Tickets for Noah’s Flood are on general sale now. To find out more and book, visit manchestercollective.co.uk/flood