Britten's Curlew River Gets Rare New York Performance This Week

Classic Arts News   Britten's Curlew River Gets Rare New York Performance This Week
When Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears visited Japan in 1956, they were powerfully affected by a live performance of noh, the oldest and most refined of the country's traditional theater genres. The experience inspired him to write his three "parables for church performance" — chamber operas on spiritual themes with all-male casts, spare scoring and a meditative performing style modeled on that of noh.

Beginning tonight, as part of its "Noh~NOW! series, the Japan Society is presenting a rare New York production of Curlew River, the first and best known of Britten's church parables.

The story of Curlew River — patterned after that of Sumidagawa (Sumida River), the classic noh drama Britten saw — tells of a Madwoman searching for her abducted son and the Ferryman who takes her across the river and leads her to find him (in a way).

The Japan Society's staging, originally from the Op_ra de Rouen/Haute-Normandie in France, is directed by Yoshi Oida, an theater artist trained in traditional Japanese drama and a longtime member of Peter Brook's international company of actors. David Stern, founder and director of the European company Opera Fuoco, conducts, with tenor Michael Bennett as the Madwoman and baritone Reuben Willcox as the Ferryman.

Curlew River plays at the Japan Society (333 East 47th Street in Manhattan) tonight, tomorrow and Saturday (April 12-14) at 7:30 p.m. Information and tickets are available at

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