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Comprehension Questions and Points for Discussion

1. Briefly describe Callas' career.

2. What kind of voice did she have? Characterize her style of performance.

3. Which tenor was her almost constant partner?

4. What was Callas' approach to the score? How did she work on it?

5. In what roles did she excel?

6. Which of Callas' qualities did Karajan point out in his mem­oirs?

7. What makes Maria Callas a great opera singer?

8. Have you heard any of her records? What do you think of them?


It is hard to think of any British male singer who has had so long, versatile and influential a career.

Pears was born in 1910 at Farnham, Surrey. He won a scholar­ship to the Royal College of Music in London, sang in the BBC Chorus, and, in 1938, the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus. By now he had met the young Britten, whose lifelong companion and chosen interpreter he became. They had already given the first of what was to become a long and outstandingly distinguished series of recitals in which the song-cycles which Britten wrote for them featured with other English songs of many styles and periods and - most notably - with the Lieder* of Schubert and Schumann.

With Britten he went to the USA in 1939 for three years. On their return Pears started his operatic career, mainly, in those days,

at Sadler's Wells. Here, in 1945, he sang the title-role in the memo­rable first performance of Peter Crimes, the first of many leading roles composed by Britten "on" the voice of Pears, culminating nearly 30 years later in Aschenbach in Death in Venice (1973).

Profound musicianship, intelligence and theatrical flair enabled Pears to be convincing in characters one might have thought outside his natural scope - for example the rough, half-crazed fisherman Grimes, the grocer's boy Albert Herring, the Madwoman in Curlew River.* It was less surprising (though the degree of success was re­markable) that he should shine as the introspective Vere in Billy Budd, as the sinister Quint in The Turn of the Screw, the impetu­ous Essex in Gloriana, and the military grandfather in Owen Win-grave. He excelled in the principal tenor roles of Mozart, coming to Idomeneo at about the same age as Raaff, the original singer of the


Of equal importance was Sir Peter's Protean concert work, not only in recital with Britten and other eminent partners but in spe­cially-written works by Berkeley, Tippett, Henze and many other composers. He was pre-eminent in oratorio - Schütz, the Bach Pas­sions (as Evangelist), Elgar's Gerontius,* Britten's War Requiem. These no less than his operatic roles made him a widely admired figure in Europe and further afield.

Pears was a founder-member of the English Opera Group, a re­sourceful, tireless, active director of the Aldeburgh Festival, a pillar of the Britten-Pears School at nearby Snape. Through these and kindred activities he left his mark on the succeeding generation of British singers. He was not inimitable. Many singers could and did imitate, even unconsciously mimic, him. But his influence went deeper than the surface mannerisms. Numerous gramophone records will perpetuate as well as peculiarities of timbre and diction his acutely musical style, and his wide culture, gift for languages and his unassailable musical integrity.

He was made a CBE* in 1957 and knighted* in 1977.

From opera, 1986. Abridged

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 424

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