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FULL THE LITTLE SWEEP (Britten) Cuenca 2011 Alfonso Barque, Francisco Pardo, Itxaso Motiones, Alejandra Spagnuolo

Video Recording from: YouTube     FULL VIDEO          Qries

Information on the Performance
Information about the Recording
  • Published by: CUENCACIUDADMUSICA  
  • Date Published: 2020  
  • Format: Streaming
  • Quality Video: 3 Audio:3
  • Subtitles: nosubs  
  • Video Recording from: YouTube     FULL VIDEO

The Little Sweep, Op. 45, is an opera for children in three scenes by the English composer Benjamin Britten, with a libretto by Eric Crozier.

Let’s Make an Opera!
The Little Sweep is the second part of a stage production entitled Let’s Make an Opera!. The first part takes the form of a play in which the cast portray contemporary amateur performers conceiving, creating and rehearsing the opera. Intended as an introduction to and demystification of the operatic genre, the play also provides an opportunity to rehearse the audience in the four “Audience Songs” they will sing after the interval.

The format of the play altered radically in the early months of its existence, passing through at least three versions (including one specially written for radio) utilising different approaches to the exposition. An initial version set “on the stage of any village hall” during an open dress-rehearsal for an already-written work morphs into one where the “Little Sweep” narrative is related by Gladys (Mrs. Parworthy) as a true story which happened to her grandmother, Juliet Brook, when Juliet was a fourteen-year-old in 1809 or 1810. In this telling the long-term happy ending is revealed, that Juliet’s uncle (the father of the visiting Crome children) took Sammy the rescued sweep-boy on as a gardener’s boy. Gladys’s mother remembered him as “old Samuel Sparrow, the head gardener”, who used to give her apricots on her birthday. The group of six adults (including the conductor) and six children choose this as the subject of their home-made opera, libretto by Anne Dougall, a young Scottish bank clerk, and music by Norman Chaffinch, an enthusiastic amateur. The opera is written, composed, cast, produced and rehearsed in the space of less than an hour.

The adult characters in the play were given the cast members’ own first names and invented surnames, while the children originally had the first names of the children in the opera. For these, Britten used the names of the children and nephews of Fidelity Cranbrook, (wife of John Gathorne-Hardy, 4th Earl of Cranbrook), a personal friend of the composer’s, whose family seat Glemham House lies a few miles inland from Aldeburgh, in Great Glemham close to Snape. In later versions of the play the children also acquired the names of the respective cast members, and Elisabeth Parrish became Pamela, to reflect the part of Rowan having been taken over by Pamela Woolmore, who originally understudied the role.

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