Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Paul Bunyan. It was last on stage 17–21 February 2014 as part of the Winter 2013/14 season.
In W.H. Auden's witty reworking of American mythology a folksinger narrates the legend of the giant Paul Bunyan, as he builds a lumber farm and guides his homesick foreman, petulant book-keeper and good-hearted cook to happiness.
Paul Bunyan was Britten's first work for the stage. He and librettist W.H. Auden created the piece during their time in America, and sought to capture the spirit of the booming, forward-looking country around them – with as much affection as irreverence. Auden's lyrical, subtle satire interweaves with a score that sees the young Britten at his most playful and inventive: folk, blues and Broadway are incorporated into a musical language that remains distinctively his.
Award-winning director and choreographer Liam Steel has developed an original production of this enchanting work, replete with a quartet of cheerful Swedish lumberjacks, singing trees and geese, bad cooks, good cooks and a mischievous pair of cats.
News and features
1 September 2014
From cheerful go-getting lumberjacks to a city of hedonism in the desert, lyric theatre has long confronted the ideals of the USA.
14 February 2014
The collaboration that resulted in American folktale opera, Paul Bunyan.
Paul Bunyan, Op 17, is an operetta in two acts and a prologue composed by Benjamin Britten to a libretto by W. H. Auden, designed for performance by semi-professional groups. It premiered at Columbia University on 5 May 1941, to largely negative reviews, and was withdrawn by the composer. Britten revised it somewhat in 1976 and subsequently it had numerous performances and two commercial recordings. The story is based on the folkloric American lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, with the music incorporating a variety of American styles, including folk songs, blues and hymns. The work is strongly sectional in nature, highly reminiscent of the 'Broadway musical' style of the period.