Janette Heffernan was the first girl to sing in the composer’s ghost opera.
I first met him when I was aged 15, when he was looking for children for the Aldeburgh premiere of Noye’s Fludde, in 1958. I was at ballet school at the time, but I’d had singing lessons so my teachers put me forward for an audition. I knew Britten’s music — I’d seen his Prince of Pagodas four times at Covent Garden — and at the audition I recognised him from photographs. So when I was called on-stage I said, “Excuse me, are you Benjamin Britten?” and he said “Yes, how did you know that?”. I think that must have helped me to get the part of Mrs Sem.
While at Britten’s home in Aldeburgh I was made to feel like a nuisance and a silly little thing. It was clear that Ben had his inner circle — Michael Crawford, for instance, who played Mr Jaffett in the Noye’s Fludde premiere, was a clear favourite. And it wasn’t hard to see why. He was a brilliant actor, so inventive and a real Charlie Chaplin character. Small wonder he went on to become famous in his adulthood. Ben had a knack for discovering child talent.
via The Times