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Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier (22nd April, 1912 - 8th October, 1953), was a British contralto born in Preston, Lancashire, England.

She left school at 14 and worked as a telephone operator in Blackburn. She married a bank manager called Bert Wilson in 1935, and moved to Carlisle. It was in Carlisle that her husband bet her that she could not sing in a singing competition. She entered and won in two categories. She had thought to enter as a pianist. It could have been this which brought her talents to public attention, and was a significant factor in her deciding to pursue a career in music. Her marriage, however, did not work out, and was annulled after 12 years.

She studied with the baritone, Roy Henderson, who was a well known singing teacher at the time.

Benjamin Britten wrote several parts specifically for her, including Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia, Abraham and Isaac (also written for Peter Pears), and part of the Spring Symphony (1949). She worked with several famous conductors, including Bruno Walter, John Barbirolli, Malcolm Sargent, Clemens Krauss, Herbert von Karajan, Eduard van Beinum and also with Benjamin Britten. She also worked with other famous singers such as Isobel Baillie and Peter Pears.

Her final performance was as Orpheus in Gluck's Orfeo et Euridice at Covent Garden in 1953. She had previously sung this at Glyndebourne in 1947, but the Royal Opera House performance was sung in English. She only sang in two performances.

Works she was particularly well known for include:

She performed some of these pieces in both their original language, and also in English. Examples include the St Matthew Passion, arias by Bach and Handel, and Gluck's Orfeo.

She made numerous recordings in her short career, though some of her performances were not recorded, or recordings were destroyed. These include performances of Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, and The Messiah.

She died of breast cancer in 1953.


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