THE DEAN of Durham, who first trod the boards as a goat, has been elevated to be voice of God in the same opera – more than five decades after he first appeared.

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove is taking part in a production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde with the Durham Singers at Durham Cathedral, at 7.00pm on Saturday, March 2.

He first played the part of a goat in Noye's Fludde at the age of nine, in a performance in All Saints' Church, Durham Road, London, in 1959.

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Dean Sadgrove said: “Owen Brannigan, who is a Geordie, played the part of Noye in the premier production in 1958. He lived just three doors away from me.

“It is very likely that he said to me “they are performing Noye’s Flood in a church down the road. I think you would enjoy it”. And of course the other North-East link was that church was in Durham Road.”

Following the London performance, Dean Sadgrove wrote to Britten saying how much he had enjoyed taking part and how he liked the music. He even sent the composer a copy of the printed programme.

He said: “My mother said: “Don’t expect a reply he is a great man”. So how marvellous that I got a reply three days later.”

Durham Singers musical director Dr Julian Wright contacted the home to the Britten Pears Archive and established that Dean Sadgrove’s original letter was still there.

The dean said: “I never thought I would see the letter again. I just assumed it had been thrown out.”

Recalling taking part in the opera, he said: “I was very confused to begin with, because I thought I had been allocated the part of a sheep.

“In the end I was a goat, which has interesting implications for a preacher who talks about sheep from time to time.”

He added: “Britten, was very clear that Noye’s Fludde should be performed in a church or church hall. It is going to be wonderful in the Cathedral.

“It is rather humbling being the voice of God. It is a spoken part - not an acting part.

“It is very important to get it right and to make sure the voice has the right degree of sonority. I just hope I can do it justice.”

The cast of principals includes pupils from Durham Johnston School, and Durham Cathedral Young Singers.

Tickets for Noye's Fludde at 7.00pm on Saturday March 2 are available from 0191-332 4041 or . Admission is £18 (students / under 25s £12 & children under 13 free).

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