Noye's Fludde is a one-act opera by the British composer Benjamin Britten, intended primarily for amateur performers, particularly children. First performed on 18 June 1958 at that year's Aldeburgh Festival, it is based on the 15th-century Chester "mystery" or "miracle" play which recounts the Old Testament story of Noah's Ark. Britten specified that the opera should be staged in churches or large halls, not in a theatre.
By the mid-1950s Britten had established himself as a major composer, both of operas and of works for mixed professional and amateur forces – his mini-opera The Little Sweep (1949) was written for young audiences, and used child performers. He had previously adapted text from the Chester play cycle in his 1952 Canticle II, which retells the story of Abraham and Isaac. Noye's Fludde was composed as a project for television; to the Chester text Britten added three congregational hymns, the Greek prayer Kyrie eleison as a children's chant, and an Alleluia chorus. A large children's chorus represents the pairs of animals who march into and out of the ark, and proceedings are directed by the spoken Voice of God. Of the solo sung roles, only the parts of Noye (Noah) and his wife were written to be sung by professionals; the remaining roles are for child and adolescent performers. A small professional ensemble underpins the mainly amateur orchestra which contains numerous unconventional instruments to provide particular musical effects; bugle fanfares for the animals, handbell chimes for the rainbow, and various improvisations to replicate musically the sounds of a storm.
At its premiere Noye's Fludde was acclaimed by critics and public alike, both for the inspiration of the music and the brilliance of the design and production. The opera received its American premiere in New York in March 1959, and its first German performance at Ettal in May of that year. Since then it has been staged worldwide; the performance in Beijing in October 2012 was the first in China of any Britten opera. The occasion of Britten's centenary in 2013 led to numerous productions at music festivals, both in the UK and abroad.