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Peter Pears

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Sir Peter Neville Luard Pears (Farnham, 22 June 1910 – Aldeburgh, 3 April 1986) was an English tenor and life-long partner of the composer Benjamin Britten.

He was educated at Lancing College and went on to study music at Keble College, Oxford, serving as organist at Hertford College, but left without taking his degree. He later studied voice for two terms at the Royal College of Music.

He met Britten in 1936, when he was a member of the BBC Singers. Pears and Britten gave their first recital together in 1937 at Balliol College, Oxford University. They then travelled to America together. Upon their return, they performed Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo together at Wigmore Hall, and then recorded them for EMI, their first recording together.

Many of Britten’s works contain a main tenor role written specifically for Pears. These include the Nocturne, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, the Canticles, the operas Peter Grimes and Albert Herring (title roles), The Beggar’s Opera (Macheath), Owen Wingrave (Sir Philip Wingrave), Billy Budd (Captain Vere), The Turn of the Screw (Quint), Death in Venice (Aschenbach) and the three Church Parables.

Pears was co-librettist for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and created one of his few comic roles in it: As Flute the Bellowsmender he performed a drag parody of Joan Sutherland in the mad scene of Lucia di Lammermoor.

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