R E P E R T O I R E
A typical Vyvyan recital would start with an English baroque group, usually Handel (Oh, had I Jubal's Lyre a favourite) and Purcell (perhaps The Expostulation of the Blessed Virgin). Then would come some Germans: Schumann, Brahms or Wolf, all of which became repertory in which she excelled (click to hear Schumann’s Er der Herrlichste von Allen).
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Even her Mozart operas tended to be rarities for their time: Idomeneo wasn't often seen onstage, and Seraglio had never been done before by Sadlers Wells. But it was with Handel and Purcell that she truly travelled into the unknown – on the back of the baroque revival that was just building momentum through the 1950s.
She took part in pioneering performances of Alexander’s Feast under Neville Marriner, of Samson under Raymond Leppard, of Jephtha with Kubelik and the Berlin Philharmonic, of Athalia under Anthony Lewis. Solomon, Saul, Israel in Egypt, L’Allegro ed il Penseroso and Amadigi all featured in her schedule. As did landmark stagings of Radamisto and Rinaldo for the Handel Opera Society (click to hear her in Handelian opera)
Rameau also featured in her schedule, with BBC broadcasts of Dardanus and Hippolyte et Aricie in the early 50s, and a 1967 Aldeburgh performance of Zephyre that was almost certainly the first in modern times.
Associated with Benjamin Britten from the start of her career, Vyvyan was inevitably drawn into his realisations of Purcell, including the Expostulation of the Blessed Virgin (of which she gave the first broadcast performance, 1953: click to hear extract from a later 1960s performance)
and his concert version of The Fairy Queen (taking part in the first performance, Aldeburgh 1967).
|Central to Vyvyan's career were the operas and other vocal works of Benjamin Britten [for full details click on THE BRITTEN CONNECTION]. But beyond them, she took part in premieres and early performances of large amounts of new music – most of it English, but with forays into Poulenc, Milhaud, and forgotten figures like the Greek composer Manolis Kalomiris whose opera The Shadowy Waters she broadcast in 1953.|
||In 1962 came the premiere of Arthur Bliss's The Beatitudes, written for the concert that opened the festival for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral.|
||Other composers Vyvyan championed include John Tavener (whose Three Sections from the Four Quartets she commissioned and sang at an SPNM concert in 1966) and Margaret Hubicki.||
||Some of her efforts came to nothing.|
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Peter Rice's costume design
for Jennifer Vyvyan in
The Violins of St Jacques
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R A D I O 4 D O C U M E N T A R Y O N
J E N N I F E R V Y V Y A N :
O P E N I N G T H E B O X E S,
O R I G I N A L L Y B R O A D C A S T
T U E S D A Y A U G U S T 1 8 T H,
1 1 . 3 0 P M
When JJennifer Vyvyan died in 1974 she left behind a husband, a small son and an awful lot of stuff – which was put in boxes and stored in a loft for almost 40 years until it was re-examined and turned into the material for this website.
Opening the Boxes is a reflection on how all this happened. Presented by the music critic Michael White, who did the research and wrote the site, it features contributions from conductor Steuart Bedford, stage director John Copley, soprano April Cantelo, and Jennifer Vyvyan‘s son Jonathan Crown. Listen to the documentary on iPlayer here (may be up for a limited time).