Director Frederic Wake-Walker has gone back to the source. I should perhaps let the composer himself explain. Writing in the programme for the 1964 festival, Britten said:
It was in Tokyo in January 1956 that I saw a Nō-drama for the first time.... The whole occasion made a tremendous impression upon me, the simple touching story, the economy of the style, the intense slowness of the action, the marvellous skill and control of the performers, the beautiful costumes, the mixture of chanting, speech, singing, with which three instruments made up the strange music - it all offered a totally new 'operatic' experience.