Curlew River is based on the Japanese noh play Sumidagawa (Sumida River) of Juro Motomasa (1395-1431). The story is told through four main characters who, in the style of Noh theatre, are all performed by male singers. The madwoman and traveler wish to cross the Curlew River on the Ferryman's boat in order to find the Madwoman's missing child. During the journey, the Ferryman tells the story of a boy who arrived a year ago with a cruel master who had kidnapped him. The boy was sick and left by the river by his master. When the boy died, he asked to be buried by the path to the local chapel. Then if travelers from his homeland passed by, a yew tree would be planted in his memory. It turns out that this is the boy that Madwoman had come searching for. Grief-stricken by this knowledge, she prays at the boy's graveside. In the end, the Madwoman is redeemed and her madness is gone.
Curlew River guide sections