|Sir Peter Pears|
|Born||Peter Neville Luard Pears
22 June 1910
Newark House, Searle Road, Farnham, Surrey, England
|Died||3 April 1986
Red House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England
He was born at Newark House, Searle Road, Farnham, Surrey, and educated at Lancing College. He 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 claimed that it was hearing the tenor Steuart Wilson singing the Evangelist in J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion that "started me off".
In 1936, while a member of the BBC Singers, he met Benjamin Britten, who was to become his life partner. Pears and Britten gave their first recital together in 1937 at Balliol College, Oxford University. In April 1939, Britten and Pears left for America together as pacifists, a few months before the outbreak of war between the British Empire and Germany. There, in 1940, Britten composed Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, the first of many song cycles for Pears. Upon their return to England in April 1942, when they both registered as conscientious objectors, they performed the song cycle at Wigmore Hall on 23 September, 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), his adaption of 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 bellows-mender, he performed a drag parody of Dame Joan Sutherland in the mad scene of Lucia di Lammermoor.
His voice was controversial, the vocal quality being unusual. Felix Benson described it as "dry and white" and that "it took some getting used to". John Steane, whilst admiring much of his work admitted that Pears' art "was all very well if you do not call it singing."  It was cruelly said[who?] that he had one good note, E a third above middle C, which is why the crucial aria of Peter Grimes, "Now the Great Bear and Pleiades", is mainly written on that note. Its quality did not always record well, but there is no doubt that he had unusually good articulation and vocal agility, of which Britten also took advantage. His delivery, and Britten's compositional style, were mercilessly (and accurately) satirised by Dudley Moore in Beyond the Fringe (Little Miss Muffet).
Pears, a Sponsor of the Peace Pledge Union, died at Red House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul's Church in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Benjamin Britten's grave is next to his, near the grave of Imogen Holst, a close friend.
- "Mountain Music," Time Magazine, 19 August 1946
- Peter Pears Travel Diaries 1936-1978, p.225 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1995)
- Hodgson, Peter John (1996), Benjamin Britten: A Guide to Research, Routledge, p. 16, ISBN 0-8153-1795-6
- Oliver, Michael (1996) Benjamin Britten, Phaidon, p. 96
- Earl of Harewood. Quoted in 'Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness', Lebrecht. N. 2007 p.290
- John Steane. 'The Grand Tradition', Duckworth. 1071
- Some Fickle Circumstance