BJ. William Plomer


19. The Burning Fiery Furnace: Second Parable for Church Performance. Music by Benjamin Britten. London: Faber Music, 1966. Reprint, 1983. Sound recording, London: OSA, 1967.

Plomer and Britten’s second ‘church drama’ takes its subject from the Biblical Book of Daniel, not from Japanese sources, but follows the conventions derived from the nô in Curlew River (18). Plomer’s notes to the Faber Music edition trace similarities between the work and Curlew River, and comment on the relation of both to the nô. The earlier drama was ‘generated by the strong response, at quite different times, of the composer and the librettist to performances in Japan of the medieval -plays’, and while ‘it would have been impossible either to transpose or imitate either the highly stylised Japanese production or the traditional subtleties of the Nô’, Plomer and Britten discovered that they could ‘adapt the use of a small, projecting, curtainless stage’, the ‘functioning together of performers and orchestra without a conductor’, and the ‘formalised production’, all of which are carried over into this work, which was first performed at the Church of Orford at the Aldeburgh Festival in June 1966. See also 21.





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