Peter Pears

22 June 1910 Farnham – 3 April 1986 Aldeburgh

Picture of Peter Pears

Peter Pears sings Sweet Polly Oliver
In RA format
This is a "very special" recording for me: Pears my do nothing tenor par excellence, and Britten my do nothing composer par excellence at the piano.

Pears was a BBC radio chorister when meeting Benjamin Britten in the late 1930s, first as a friend, then as his significant other. (They were officially a couple, which was very courageous pioneer work; at the time, homosexuality was still prosecutable in the UK.) Britten motivated him to undertake further voice studies, which led to Pears' debut as a opera soloist at the Strand Theater London in 1942 (as Hoffmann), and to an engagement at Saddler's Wells in 1943; for a few years, Pears would sing Almaviva, Tamino, Ferrando, Duca, Vašek or Rodolfo; from 1947, he appeared at Covent Garden in similar roles.

In 1945, still at Saddler's Wells, he sang his first Britten premiere, in a role that his partner had explicitly written for him: Peter Grimes. From now on, he starred in the world premiere of almost every Britten opera; and primarily with his Britten roles, he arrived at La Scala, the Met, the Glyndebourne Festival, in Vienna, Zürich, Munich, Rome, or Venice.

Still more important, however, was his concert career, often accompanied at the piano by Benjamin Britten. With his lieder recitals, but also in Bach's oratorios, he toured Holland, Switzerland, the Soviet Union, Germany...


A village Romeo and Juliet (Horn player) – London, Royal College of Music, 28 June 1934
Così fan tutte (act 1, Ferrando) – Royal College of Music, 23 February 1935
Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Royal College of Music, Easter 1934
Lady Macbeth Mtsenskogo uezda (Second foreman) – London, Queen's Hall, March 1936
Doktor Faust (Student) – London, Queen's Hall, March 1937
On the frontier (Announcer) – London, Globe, 12 February 1939
Les contes d'Hoffmann – London, Strand, 6 May 1942
Die Zauberflöte – London, New Theater, 19 January 1943
Rigoletto – Blackpool, 3 April 1943
La traviata – London, New Theater, 29 April 1943
Il barbiere di Siviglia – London, New Theater, 29 July 1943 (Wearing lists 30 or 31 July)
Prodaná nevěsta (Vašek) – London, New Theater, 10 November 1943
Così fan tutte – London, New Theater, 29 August 1944
Peter Grimes – London, Saddler's Wells, 7 June 1945
The rape of Lucretia (Male Chorus) – Glyndebourne, 12 July 1946
Albert Herring – Glyndebourne, 20 June 1947
The beggar's opera (Macheath) – Saddler's Wells, 6 September 1948
Illuminations (Singer) – London, Covent Garden, 20 July 1950
Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (Narrator) – Hammersmith, Lyric, 1 May 1951
Dido and Aeneas – London, Saddler's Wells, 16 June 1951
Oedipus rex – Köln, 5 October 1951
Billy Budd (Vere) – London, Covent Garden, 1 December 1951
Love in village (Hawthorn) – Aldeburgh, Jubilee Hall, 16 June 1952
Gloriana (Robert Devereux) – London, Covent Garden, 8 June 1953
The turn of the screw (Peter Quint/Prologue) – Venice, Fenice, 14 September 1954
Troilus and Cressida (Pandarus) – London, Covent Garden, 3 December 1954
Façade – London, Scala, 24 September 1955
Savitri (Satyavan) – Aldeburgh, Jubilee Hall, 15 June 1956
Ruth (Boaz) – London, Scala Theater, 2 October 1956
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (David) – London, Covent Garden, 28 January 1957
Les mamelles de Tirésias – Aldeburgh, 16 June 1958
A midsummer night's dream (Flute) – Aldeburgh, 11 June 1960
Curlew river (Madwoman) – Aldeburgh, Oxford Church, 11 June 1964
The burning fiery furnace (Nebuchadnezzar) – Aldeburgh, Oxford Church, 9 June 1966
The prodigal son (Tempter) – Aldeburgh, Oxford Church, 10 June 1968
Idomeneo – Aldeburgh, Maltings, 10 June 1969
Owen Wingrave (Count) – London, Covent Garden, 10 May 1973
Death in Venice – Aldeburgh, Maltings, 16 June 1973
Evgenij Onegin (Triquet) – Aldeburgh, 16 June 1979
I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the picture.
References for the repertory: Christopher Headington Peter Pears, Faber and Faber, 1992
J. P. Wearing The London stage, The Scarecrow Press
Opera, June 1986
For the biography: reference 1; reference 2: Kutsch & Riemens

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