Opera Scotland

Kathleen Ferrier Suggest updates

Kathleen Mary Ferrier.

Born Higher Walton, 22 April 1912.

Died London, 8 October 1953.

English contralto.

Kathleen Ferrier holds a unique position in British music in the postwar years, because of the beauty and intensity of her performances, combined with her tragically short life. Her concert career was successful in Europe, and she also toured three times to the United States.

She was a talented amateur pianist, but only turned to singing in her mid-twenties. She studied initially in Carlisle with J E Hutchinson, then, after her move to London, with the Scottish baritone Roy Henderson. She built an extensive career as a concert and recital singer during the war years. Her operatic career began in 1946, at Glyndebourne, where she created the title role in The Rape of Lucretia. That production toured England, Scotland and the Netherlands, and was revived at the next Festival. In 1947 she also sang at Glyndebourne her other operatic role, Gluck's Orfeo. This was the part in which she gave her final performance at Covent Garden, a few months before her death.

The Edinburgh Festival was established under Glyndebourne management in 1947, when one of the most important events featured the reunion of the Vienna Philharmonic with its former conductor, Bruno Walter, who had lived in the USA for many years. Ferrier appeared with them in a performance of Mahler's then little-known Song of the Earth. The results were of historic importance, and Ferrier returned to every Edinburgh Festival until 1952. That year she also toured Britain (including Scotland) in recital, when she collaborated with Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten to raise funds for the English Opera Group.

Revised 13 May 2012.

Roles in Scotland

Lucretia wife of Collatinus
Rape of Lucretia 1946
Alto
Lied von der Erde 1947

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