Libretto by Eric Crozier (E,F,G,I)
Adult roles:2S,A,T,B; children's roles:4Tr,2S; audience participation
perc(1):timp/BD/SD/gong/cyms/tgl/cast/lge & sm wdbl-pft(4hands)-solo string quintet
(also arranged for piano duet with or without percussion)
The first two acts are in the form of a play illustrating the preparation and rehearsal of 'The Little Sweep', the opera which is performed in the third act.
Alternative play text: 'The Climbing Boy' by Paul Johnson
Two of the major preoccupations informing Britten’s life and work, opera and music for children, come together in this ‘Entertainment for Young People’, the first part of which, Let’s Make An Opera, consists of a play in which we see a group of children and adults write and rehearse an opera; the second part consisting of a performance of the finished opera itself. As such, the work can almost be seen as Britten’s operatic counterpart to The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra. Yet despite the light-hearted approach, The Little Sweep is also a morality tale in which Sam the sweep boy is sold into service and bullied by his elders in a manner reminiscent of Peter Grimes. Thus the work embodies a rounded and involving theatrical experience, introducing young audiences to the conventions of opera by means of a simple yet affecting story with which they can sympathise and identify. That Britten undoubtedly succeeded in his aim is demonstrated by the work’s universal appeal and popularity.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Britten-Pears Library