The Pavarotti singer who overcame a harelip

The Pavarotti singer who overcame a harelip


norman lebrecht

December 28, 2013

Rae Woodland, who is thought to be the first English soprano to sing with Luciano Pavarotti (La Sonnambula at Covent Garden, in 1965), has died at the age of 91.

She worked and recorded extensively with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears and became a much-loved teacher at their young artist programme in Aldeburgh. She also sang opposite Janet Baker in the first BBC Proms performance of Mahler’s second symphony, conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Though never among the big stars of her era, Rae (as you can hear below) had a lovely, rich soprano voice and was notably popular among her fellow-singers and her students.

The Telegraph reports in its obituary that, as a child, Rae was among the early successes of reconstructive surgery for a harelip. The operation left hardly any trace and she enjoyed a rich and full career in the public eye.


rae woodland


  • David Boxwell says:

    Listening to her with Stokie in Mahler 3 (1963, Royal Albert Hall) as I type, and perfect she is!

  • David Boxwell says:

    Correction: Mahler 2. I also heard her on a “Messiah” recording made in 1976, and she was perfectly marvellous.

  • Tom Emlyn Williams says:

    Isn’t it a shame that her recording of the Queen of the Night’s Aria doesn’t come higher on YouTube’s list. In my opinion it should be near if not at the top. Perhaps if more of us said something about her, there might be a bit of justice for her now.

  • squirrel says:

    A biography that seems Zelig-like. What an interesting path she had. Rest in peace.

  • richardcarlisle says:

    Thanks for a gracious tribute to a fine voice and major talent.