Opera Scotland

Little Sweep Let's Make an Opera!; The Little Sweep

Tours by decade

1960s - 1 tour

1965 - Dundee Repertory Theatre Company
Fully staged, piano accompaniment

2010s - 1 tour

2015 - Cromarty Youth Opera
Fully Staged, reduced orchestration

Tours by location


Benjamin Britten (born Lowestoft, 22 November 1913; died Aldeburgh, 4 December 1976)


Eric Crozier



First Performance: Aldeburgh (Jubilee Hall), 14 June 1949.

First Performance in Scotland: Dundee (Repertory Theatre), 14 February 1965 (perhaps earlier).



Let's Make an Opera!  was the first of Britten's operatic works to be introduced at the Aldeburgh Festival.  It includes significant parts for children, as well as expecting enthusiastic participation on the part of the audience.

It is an entertainment in which the first half consists of a thoroughly enjoyable session in which the conductor leads the audience through some tuneful songs. After the interval they join in the children's opera The Little Sweep.  The four Songs for audience are 'The Sweep's Song';  'Sammy's Bath';  ''The Night Song'  and 'Coaching Song'.

The opera is set in 1810 at Iken Hall, a house in Suffolk familiar to Britten and his collaborators.  The theme is that whereby young boys were employed in the unhealthy and dangerous practice of climbing up inside chimneys to clean them.


Main Characters

Black Bob, the sweepmaster (bass)

Clem, his son  (tenor)

Sam, a sweep, aged 8 (treble)

Miss Baggott, the housekeeper. (contralto)

Juliet Brook (soprano)

Rowan, the nurrsery maid (soprano)


Plot Summary

Black Bob and Clem bring SAm to sweep the chimney in the nursery at Iken Hall. They are supervised by Miss Baggott.  Sam gets stuck and is rescued by the Brook children and their house guests.  Bob and Miss Baggott search for the supposed runaway, while Rowan joins the children in their conspircy to protect Sam.

The children give Sam a bath and hide him in the toy cupboard.  To prevent Miss Baggott discovering him, Juliet pulls a faint as a distraction.

Next morning Juliet gives Sam money provided by the departing guests.  He is then smuggled out in a trunk and loaded on to their coach, the children helping the gardener and coachman with the unexpected weight. He is then waved off to freedom.  

The Cast

 the gardener
Black Bob
 the sweep-master
 the sweep-master's assistant
Gay Brook
Hugh Crome
John Crome
Juliet Brook
Miss Baggott
 housekeeper at Iken Hall
 the nursery-maid
 the new sweep-boy
Sophie Brook
Tina Crome
 the coachman

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