Mike Downey

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Unogumbe – Noye’s Fludde

Unogumbe – Noye’s Fludde

Noye's Fludde (Noah's Flood), is a 1957 opera by Benjamin Britten. The text is based on an edition by Alfred W. Pollard of an early 15th-century mystery play from the Chester Mystery Cycle.

The opera was originally written to be performed in a church or a large hall - but at Britten’s request, not in a theatre - it was also intended for a cast primarily of amateurs.

The traditional opera called for the orchestra to have a small concertino ensemble of professionals consisting of string quintet, recorder, piano (four hands), organ, and timpani. The amateur ripieno orchestra calls for strings, recorders, bugles, hand-bells, and percussion. The audience, which Britten referred to as the "congregation", is invited to join in by singing along in the three hymns inserted into the original text.

The first performance was on 18 June 1958 in Orford Church, Suffolk, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, with the English Opera Group and a local cast.

In this reworked version by South Africa’s Isango Ensemble, the following is an extract from the opening scene and highlights how adaptable the piece is and how unique it becomes when reworked in a South African setting using the local language (Xhosa).


  • Nominated for the Golden Berlin for Best Short Film, the Berlin International Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, 2014
Unogumbe – Noye’s Fludde