1977 – The Adventures of Jonah – ABOUT

The Adventures of Jonah

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1977 and revived in 1984

Synopsis: The biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. A light-hearted approach to a classic story with a serious message about human nature and forgiveness.

Composer Timothy Kraemer
Librettist Timothy Kraemer & Peter Dickinson
Music Director Nicholas Kraemer
Soloists Jonah, King, Mayor, Servant, Slave Driver, Goats (2), Captain, Whale, Gourd
Groups Queens, Slaves, Sailors, Passengers, Fishes, Worms  
Orchestra Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Clarinet, Piano, Bass Guitar, Drums, Percussion, Trumpet, Recorders  

Notes on Production: The story of the Old Testament prophet Jonah and his adventures told in a fun, lively style: would appeal to a younger group, not necessarily with musical experience. An assortment of groups (slaves, angels, sailors, belly dancers etc) offer scope for casting a mixed age range.

Musically straightforward, easy listening, with harmonies, jazzy rhythms, community singing and some spoken dialogue (the Whale is a bass part, off-stage only). There is potential for easily created, colourful costumes.

Running time 60 minutes.

Reviews and Feedback: Reviewed in The Guardian.


The setting is present day Ninevah, whose broken pots and a few old bones give no hint of its past glories. We flash back to the arrogant and sinful Ninevites, led by their King, his queens and attendant slaves assert their claim to be top nation. Alone in the desert Jonah is called by God’s angels to go to Ninevah and preach repentance. He is terrified at the prospect and determines to run away.

Far from Ninevah, in Joppa harbour Jonah takes a boat for Tarshish. A storm overtakes the boat. The crew are convinced that this storm has been caused by a curse on one of the passengers and draw lots to find the culprit. The lot falls on Jonah who is thrown overboard, and immediately the storm ceases. Jonah is swallowed by a friendly whale and deep down inside the whale Jonah reflects that God will give him support. The whale then throws up Jonah on the shore close to Ninevah. Urged on by the angels Jonah approaches the town and calls on the Ninevites to repent.

The King of Ninevah is being pestered by his queens who are bored by his switched off behaviour. Disgusted by the antics of the court Jonah awaits the downfall of Ninevah. The Ninevites are warned of their impending doom and, begging for forgiveness, they start counting the forty days to doomsday.

Jonah is tested by the angels in the desert. The angels urge Jonah to learn about God’s love for all people, including the Ninevites. Jonah finally accepts God’s goodness. Back in Ninevah, the Ninevites are still apprehensively ticking off the 40 days. But they reach day 41 and realise that their repentance has saved them. All sing a chorus of relief and happiness.