Archive Treasures: Imogen Holst’s scrapbooks and The Pipers’ Guild

Archive Treasures: Imogen Holst’s scrapbooks and The Pipers’ Guild

Monday September 21 2020

Amongst Imogen Holst’s papers held in our collections are ten large scrapbooks which she started as a student at the Royal College of Music in 1926, and continued to put together until 1941. These are fantastic, interesting and colourful volumes. She pasted a myriad of ephemera into the volumes – newspaper cuttings, tickets, programmes, photographs, […]

Archive Treasures: Britten and The Tempest

Monday September 7 2020

We know several stories about Britten being lured back to write for the big screen. Few such tales straddled the decades like that of his hope to work with John Gielgud on a film version of The Tempest. During the mid-1950s Gielgud discussed with Peter Brook a possible production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He wrote […]

Archive Treasures: Britten’s wheelchair

Tuesday September 1 2020

In 1975 Benjamin Britten was a sick man: two years before he had suffered a stroke in the course of an operation to replace a failing heart valve, and his health had never fully recovered. His mobility was restricted, and he was physically fragile. He, and those around him, seem to have felt that he […]

Archive Treasures: Music manuscript for Britten’s Piano Concerto

Monday August 24 2020

Our archive preserves thousands of Britten’s music manuscripts from his juvenilia – his earliest notes written from the age of five – to his unfinished Praise We Great Men. Numerous treasures from every stage of the composition process – from first sketches to published editions. However, the full score fair copy of Britten’s Piano Concerto […]

Archive Treasures: Britten and Bennett

Monday August 17 2020

In 1965 film director John Schlesinger approached Britten to supply a soundtrack for what would become a film classic. The composer’s reluctant decline provided an opportunity for one of his most gifted followers. The Archive tells their story. ‘Dear Mr Britten, I hope you will forgive me for writing to you out of the blue […]

Archive Treasures: Channel Air Bridge

Monday August 10 2020

One of the fascinations of an archive is the way that, no matter how apparently focused its content may be, other topics creep in at the edges. The world’s largest free-standing composer’s archive, the collection at the Red House, gives detailed chapter and verse on the professional activities of Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and their […]

Archive Treasures: Joan Cross’ wartime cast books

Monday August 3 2020

Joan Cross began her operatic career in 1923 when she joined the chorus of the Vic-Wells Opera Company, then throughout the 1930s she enjoyed success as one of the leading sopranos of the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company taking on a wide range of solo roles. In September 1940 Sadler’s Wells Theatre was requisitioned by Finsbury […]

Archive Treasures: Decimalisation

Monday July 27 2020

The archive at the Red House tells the story of Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears: their lives together, their creative work and how they formed part of a wider creative circle. Like any archive, however, its content is broad and unpredictable: the story of a life is also the story of that person’s times, and […]

Archive Treasures: Nearly A Rabbit’s Tale

Monday July 20 2020

Did you ever imagine Peter Pears donning a fox’s costume for an opera, or that Britten would try his hand at set design? If not read on… Amid the catalogue of works Britten was forced to discard sits plans for an opera that must, at one stage, have been very close to his heart, not […]

Archive Treasures: Hardy’s Time’s Laughingstocks and Other Verses

Monday July 13 2020

Britten owned a large collection of verse anthologies as well as volumes of specific authors in his library. Of these volumes the one with the most interesting provenance may be this first edition of Thomas Hardy’s poems – Time’s Laughingstocks and Other Verses. Two letters from Hardy found in the cover of the volume reveal […]