with an extraordinary, unique voice, whose career was cut short at its height by leukaemia
, at the age of 41. She has remained to this day especially loved and missed. Kathleen Ferrier was renowned for a variety of styles: Lieder
opera and oratorio
, and English folk song
. She created the role of Lucretia
in Britten's opera The Rape of Lucretia
She is clear, perfect, cool, a rather old-fashioned voice that wouldn't be produced today.
Born in Higher Walton, in Lancashire, on 22 April 1912, she at first studied piano, and only in 1940 turned to a career in song, on the advice of the conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent, when she won a singing competition. Her first major role was in the Messiah in 1943 in Westminster Abbey.
Her operatic début was in 1946 with The Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne. Another role she was prominently associated with was Orpheus in Gluck's Orfeo, first at Glyndebourne in 1947, then in Amsterdam and the US, and finally at Covent Garden in February 1953, but she withdraw after her second performance, carried from the Royal Opera House on a stretcher. In that year she was awarded the CBE, and died in London on 8 October 1953.
She did Lieder recitals accompanied by Bruno Walter at the 1947 Edinburgh Festival: together they were early exponents of Mahler, who was then not very well known in Britain. She sang traditional songs arranged by such people as Benjamin Britten and Roger Quilter. She also gave great performances in Elgar's oratorio The Dream of Gerontius.
The accompanist Gerald Moore records that close to her death she said, "Now I'll have eine kleine Pause". The critic Neville Cardus referred to the "legend of St Kate", because of the veneration she was held in. When Janet Baker arrived on the scene some hailed her as Ferrier's successor, but the two are more different than they are similar.
Scholarships for young singers and funds for cancer research were set up to honour her memory. The Kathleen Ferrier Award has been available since 1956, for singers under the age of 29 who have studied in the UK for a year.
Noded as Orfeo arrives in the realm of the Blessed Spirits ("Che puro ciel"), to Mahler, and to the breath-stopping "Du bist die Ruh" of Schumann, among others.