Honour for a Britten singer who died far too young

Honour for a Britten singer who died far too young


norman lebrecht

December 04, 2022

If the name Jennifer Vyvyan rings few instant bells it is because the English soprano died long ago, on April 5, 1974 at the age of 49.

Benjamin Britten had written major roles for her – The Governess in the Venice world premiere of The Turn of the Screw in 1954, Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mrs. Julian in Owen Wingrave and more.

She died of bronchial illness at her home in Hampstead, 59 Fitzjohns Avenue.

On Thursday, at 11.30 am, a plaque will be unveiled on the building.

If you can make it, please rsvp to mjwcritic@gmail.com.

There is a substantial website devoted to her life and work.


  • Gary Freer says:

    Certainly not forgotten.

    The original recording of The Turn Of The Screw, even in mono, is mesmerising.

  • Helen Kamioner says:

    I believe JV sang the role of Flora on the recording of Turn of the Screw, which is a role I sang at Juilliard under Martin Isepp as well

  • Peter X says:

    An extremely beautiful voice, in my humble opinion.
    Fortunately several good recordings survive: indeed Britten, Mozart, Purcell, Haendel, Haydn….
    A favorite: Gordon Crosse’s “Changes” .

  • Ernest says:

    A beautiful lady too! I treasure her recordings which are seeing the light of day again on Eloquence …

  • IP says:

    Not every voice needs to be angelic to stir emotion, but two deserve the description most in my opinion: Jennifer Vyvyan and Arleen Auger. Similar fate. . . perhaps God wanted to have them in the choir.

  • Duncan says:

    A singer who deserves more recognition and also re-issuing of her recorded legacy. Thank you Norman for raising awareness.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I am surprised nobody has mentioned Beecham’s stereo Messiah, with a great “operatic” cast.

    • Jason says:

      Was just thinking of this recording when I got to your comment. It was my first ever hearing of Messiah and I nearly wore out the 4 disc LP set, especially the sections with Jennifer Vyvyan.

  • Melisande says:

    A beautiful and informative website of the late soprano Jennifer Vyvyan. The series Eloquence Classics issued recordings of her impressive career.

  • AndrewB says:

    Many of the singers who were Jennifer Vyvyan’s colleagues have passed on and time has moved on, but she was a very special singer who inspired many composers. An exception is the very fine soprano April Cantelo who is still with us and in her nineties. She once spoke of how much JV’s fellow singers admired her thorough preparation of whatever she was singing. The generation of singers who trained in the years following WW2 made such a valuable contribution both through their performances and later teaching .

    • Tony Britten says:

      They did indeed, and Benjamin Britten was in no small way responsible for this golden period of British women singers. He demanded the best – and was rewarded.

  • Mrs Margaret Steinitz says:

    A marvellous artist, dramatic interpreter esp. of Handel Operas. I got to work with her when Paul directed a BBC Recording of Handel’s Athaliah back in the early 1970s. Quiet, unassuming yet bang on the money.