Jennifer Vyvyan was one of the leading British sopranos of her time: she was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, who wrote major roles for her in his operas.
Born in Broadstairs, Kent, she entered the Royal Academy of Music, initially studying piano. But a faculty member persuaded her to pursue a singing career and she commenced her initial studies as a mezzo-soprano. After graduating in 1947 she went to Milan for further studies. In 1951 she won the Geneva International Singing Competition.
She was among the chief interpreters of the music of Benjamin Britten, who composed some of his key female roles for her: the Governess in Turn of the Screw, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lady Rich in Gloriana, and Mrs Julian in Owen Wingrave. She played a vital role in the modern stage revival of baroque opera, performing in works by Handel and Purcell for the Handel Opera Society, Covent Garden, Sadlers Wells and the Aldeburgh Festival.
She performed regularly on radio and TV reaching out to a wider audience, together with appearances at the Proms, countless solo dates with the great choral societies of England and Wales. In 1956, at the height of the Cold War, with very little East/West cultural exchange, Sir Arthur Bliss, the Master of the Queen’s Music, organised what he called a ‘Musical Embassy’ taking six prominent British musicians to Russia, bringing English music to Soviet audiences. Vyvyan was one of those musicians. It made her, for a while, a household name.
She died at the age of 49, having spent the last 13 years of her life in Hampstead.
This plaque was unveiled in December 2022 by the countertenor James Bowman.