Kathleen Ferrier was (and still is) one of the world’s great singers. Her appeal transcends all ages and every generation, more so perhaps than any other singer. She died over fifty years ago, yet is still remembered and today her voice is still heard and loved by millions around the world. (Kathleen Ferrier Society website.)
Born in 1912 she died in 1953, aged only 41. 2012 is her Centenary year. Duncan's libretto for Britten's The Rape of Lucretia was sung by her in the first production of the opera at Glyndebourne in 1946.
When I turned round again, she had taken her hat off and loosened her hair. Now she was not pretty, she was beautiful.
Kathleen Ferrier first met Ronald Duncan when she came for an audition at Benjamin Britten’s flat in St John’s Wood in London. Duncan was writing the libretto for Britten’s newest opera The Rape of Lucretia.... more
"I was still toying with the idea when my husband bet me a shilling I wouldn’t do so" - this is how Kathleen’s career began, discouraged at home from entering the Carlisle Festival singing contest. The centenary of Kathleen Ferrier’s birth fell on 22 April 2012. She was born... more
Ferrier sang in only two operas, Lucretia (1946), and Gluck’s Orfeo and Euridice (1762). In 1950 she wrote to Emmie Tillett, who organised her performances and repertoire: "The more I see of opera, the less I want to take part in it ..." more
The anonymous reporter from the Preston Guardian is one of the first journalists to write that the title role of Lucretia was "specially written for her". Ronald Duncan’s description of her being given Britten’s “pencilled scribble of Act II Scene 1 [i.e. 2]”, which "lay on the piano" means that this cannot be true ... more
Duncan tells the story of how flowers from the garden at Glyndebourne came to be used on stage during the première of Lucretia. Audrey Christie, wife of John Christie owner of the opera house, picked roses and other flowers to replace the “tawdry stage props”. She did not know the theatre superstition ... more
Towards the end of his obituary, Duncan raises the question of Kathleen’s private life. His story of what she said to him near Amsterdam in June or July 1951 mentions her unhappy marriage, not an easy issue to discuss in 1953. Ferrier had married ... more
Ronald Duncan describes her final ilIness: "it was as if she had been cast for sorrow and rehearsed for sorrow". This emphasis is slightly unusual, since all who knew her remember ... more
Author: Dr Alan Munton
Also on this site: a description of Ferrier’s performances and recordings of The Rape of Lucretia, 1946 – 195
A scan of Kathleen Ferrier’s final diary pages can be seen at Fifield’s tribute on the MusicWeb International site – scroll to the end of the essay: http://tinyurl.com/d2pe9ke
Duncan, Ronald, 'Kathleen Ferrier', Opera 4, December 12, 1953
Duncan, Ronald, The Rape of Lucretia, London and New York. Boosey and Hawkes, 1946
Duncan, Ronald, The Rape of Lucretia, London: Faber and Faber, 1953
Ronald Duncan Collection, Special Collections, University of Exeter
Campion, Paul, Ferrier – A Career Recorded, Thames Publishing / Elkin Music, 2005
Fifield, Christopher, ed., Letters and Diaries of Kathleen Ferrier, Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, Revised edition, 2011. Abbreviated LDKF.
Leonard, Maurice, Kathleen: The Life of Kathleen Ferrier 1912-1953, London: Hutchinson, 1988