Sad passing of soprano Jane Manning

Sad passing of soprano Jane Manning


norman lebrecht

April 01, 2021

Jane Manning, a prodigious and vivacious soprano who maintained an indefatigable advocacy for contemporary music, has died at 82.

She enjoyed a 45-year marriage to the composer Anthony Payne, who survives her.

Among many premieres, she sang the role of of Max in Oliver Knussen’s opera Where the Wild Things Are. In all, she gave the first performance of more than 350 works, among them important modernities by Harrison Birtwistle, Richard Rodney Bennett, Judith Weir and her husband.


  • Rob Keeley says:

    I am heartbroken.
    Jane was a mother-figure for thousands of young (and not-so-young) composers for around 50 years. She is irreplaceable. May she rest in peace.
    Condolences to Tony. xx

  • Tod Machover says:

    What a great loss. Jane was peerless: as a singer, an intellect, a sparkling presence on the (new) music scene, and as a dear dear friend to so many of us. I will miss her very very much. Love and hugs to Tony, another great artist and great human being.

  • David Ward says:

    This is very news sad indeed. Jane sang with great gusto in a rather extreme (weird maybe) chamber opera of mine in 1976 and later included my Rilke songs in Vol 2 of her book New Vocal Repertory. I had hoped to see her at a birthday lunch which cellist Ross Pople gave for me at the Chelsea Arts Club in Feb 2020, but unfortunately she had an important hospital appointment, so I missed seeing her and catching up after what had been far too many years.

  • This is such devastgatingly sad news; I knew that she had lately been struggling with cancer for quite some time. I first met Jane and Tony almost 45 years ago. They were actually married for almost 55 years (1966). A critic (whose name momentarily escapes me) once wrote of her as “the irrepressible, incomparable, unstoppable Ms Manning – life and soul of British contemporary music”, which just about sums her up. She must long since have lost count of the number of times she had sung “Pierrot Lunaire”! Although principally known for her fervent espousal of contemporary vocal music, her repertoire was vast. She gave a recital principally of late 19th / early 20th century English song for her BBC audition many years ago, with pianist Richard Rodney Bennett and I will never forget her performances of Debussy with John McCabe and Rachmaninoff with Howard Shelley. In recent years, she has devoted attention to writing two books, “New Vocal Repertory” and “Vocal Repertory for the 21st Century”. An outstanding musician, brilliant singer and dear friend, she will indeed be sorely missed by many.

  • John Byron says:

    I can’t say how saddened I am to hear the news.

  • Mark van de Wiel says:

    I’m saddened to hear this news. I haven’t seen Jane or Tony since a chat after a concert at Kings Place a few years ago, but Jane’s approach to performance was a strong influence on me and I often quote her in teaching. She gave a masterclass between a rehearsal and concert of Pierrot (and Schubert’s Trockne Blume) at the Warwick Festival with Endymion, and made the point to a student that it’s not enough to develop a good technique but that they should also be conscious of it during the performance. “Why not remove the element of chance in the concert?” she said. It was a revelation to me, and the question of balance between technical awareness and emotional expression has been invaluable ever since. We all do it to some extent, but Jane suggested it should be a conscious calculation. I’ll miss her wonderful singing (we did several unforgettable Pierrots) of course, but her musical and technical sureness has remained with me invaluably. Many condolences to Tony.

  • Karen Fodor says:

    What a force of nature Jane was. She was a tutor at the Oxenfoord summer school that I attended in the late 80s. She gave a fascinating talk, and finally launched into a performance of King Harald’s Saga. Not experienced with contemporary music, I could barely take it all in at that first hearing, but it was a thrill to hear her then and subsequently.