'Noye's Fludde' a grand spectacle

Friday, March 21, 2003

An array of bills, beaks, snouts, horns and humps are in "Noye's Fludde." The Benjamin Britten opera based on the story of Noah is populated by 39 pairs of ingeniously costumed children, some as young as 3. The animals sing, some of them dance, and, when they bravely gather on the pitching ark in this timely story of survival, family members won't be the only ones in the audience beaming.

Cecil B. DeMille, Hollywood's foremost director of Biblical epics in the 1950s, would be impressed with this Southeast Missouri Music Academy production. It amazes as a visual and musical spectacle in the best sense of the words.

The 50-minute opera opens tonight at the First Baptist Church in Cape Girardeau and continues through Sunday.

Written for children

The title is a Middle English version of Noah's flood. The opera is based on medieval mystery plays originally performed from sunrise to sunset by craft guilds from the local church. Britten, one of the best English composers of the 20th century, wrote the work specifically for children, designating only a few adult parts.

He combined strings, percussion, recorders, trumpets and voices to produce an opera that at its climax roils up an eerily beautiful cacophony that gives way to serene near-stillness. There is a lot of talent in the room.

Hays Hendricks, director of the academy, has assembled a stellar group of adult musicians to augment the nearly 200 student singers and orchestra members in the children's opera. They include cellist Dr. Sara Edgerton, Paul Thompson on recorder, Dr. Gary Miller on organ, Dr. Robert Fruehwald and Chadie Fruehwald on piano and Dr. Christopher Goeke on trumpet.

Dr. Martin Jones, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Southeast and the possessor of impeccable diction, plays the Voice of God. Tyson Zahner, a Southeast graduate who teaches music in the Jackson schools, projects a powerful vocal presence as Noye.

Noye doesn't have an easy time of it in this opera. There are naysayers, beginning with his wife, expertly sung by Southeast faculty member Dr. Leslie Jones. The Chorus of Gossips also make trouble for Noye.

Others with singing roles include Ben Hendricks, Preston Rhodes, Carly Trautwein, Samantha Gross, Katherine Goeke, Danielle Ingram and Rachel Kahle.

Audience participation

The work includes three lovely hymns the audience is invited to help sing.

Co-directors Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs and Jeffrey Noonan, both members of the Southeast faculty, somehow marshal all these elements into place on the altar at First Baptist Church. The orchestra is conducted by Steve Hendricks, another Southeast faculty member.

The orchestra coach is Steve Schaffner, orchestra director at Central High School. Lori Shaffer, an adjunct professor at Southeast, is the vocal coach.

A prodigious amount of work went into this production. Every last person involved deserves to be proud.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

Want to go?

Who: Southeast Missouri Music Academy

What: "Noye's Fludde"

When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: First Baptist Church, 926 Broadway, Cape Girardeau

Admission: $5

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