A stand-out cast celebrates the 60th anniversary of Britten’s Curlew River with this new staging in the magnificent setting of Blythburgh Church, the “cathedral of the marshes”.

This performance features musicians from the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme, with current Young Artists sharing the stage with their established colleagues, led by music director Audrey Hyland. Audrey was staff pianist on BPYAP courses, a role which was first undertaken by Viola Tunnard, who assisted Britten in the original production of Curlew River.

Curlew River – A Parable for Church Performance, Op.71 (75’)

Ian Bostridge Madwoman
Duncan Rock Ferryman
Marcus Farnsworth Traveller
Matthew Jones
Spirit of the Boy/Acolyte
Daniel Harrison
Spirit of the Boy/Acolyte
Albert Bate
Willard White Abbot/Leader of the Pilgrims

Chorus of Pilgrims:
Thomas Elwin
Thomas Herford
Hugo Brady
Jonathan Eyers
Felix Kemp
Jolyon Loy
Francis Brett
Jack Comerford

Deborah Warner director
Isabelle Kettle assistant director
Christof Hetzer
Mike Gunning
lighting designer

Hannah Gillingham flute/piccolo
George Strivens
Luca Wadham
Lucía Moreno
double bass
Miriam Keogh
Ryan Hepburn percussion
Joseph Ramadan
chamber organ
Audrey Hyland music director

A co-production with Ad Lib Productions
Dominic Best film director

The first of Britten's three “Parables for Church Performance”, the work is based on the Japanese Noh play Sumidagawa, which Britten saw during a visit to Japan in early 1956 and which is presented in the Festival on 18 June.

Britten and librettist William Plomer adapted the story from the 15th-century play, studying its history and the techniques of Noh performance, and working it into a new context of medieval religious drama. On its first performance The Times described the work as “possibly the start of a new, perhaps the most important, stage of Britten’s creative life”.

At the centre of the story is a woman in search of her lost child – the Madwoman, a role for which Ian Bostridge is acclaimed.

This production of Curlew River is being filmed for the BBC to be shown in the autumn.

Blythburgh Church Parking and Transport

There is a small gravel car park at Blythburgh Church as well as a field with ample parking, however, the field is getting increasingly muddy and we would suggest that if convenient, our coach transfer could be preferable. To secure a place on one of our coaches, click on Friday or Saturday to book for the day of your performance.

Curlew River and Sumidagawa podcast

“I shall never forget the impact made on me by the Japanese theatre”. This was Britten, broadcasting to Japan in 1958, two years after his memorable trip to the country in 1956. He had visited as part of a Far East tour beginning in 1955 and which included stays in Bali, Hong Kong and India. The whole trip had a deep and lasting influence on his compositions from around that time onwards, and perhaps most significantly on his 1964 Church Parable Curlew River. This podcast, hosted by Dr Lucy Walker, explores the background to this fascinating work, including the specific influence of the Japanese Nō play Britten attended, twice, in 1956: Sumidigawa.