Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were life partners for nearly 40 years. For much of that time their relationship was illegal in the UK; in parts of the world, of course, it still would be today. However, through careful navigation of social conventions Britten and Pears were able both to create homes, ‘safe spaces’, for themselves in this country, and to travel extensively both as performers and tourists, including to locations that even now would be challenging for a gay couple.
These maps, gathered from published sources and from the programmes in the archive that document their performances, allow readers to locate their homes and the locations at which Britten composed, and to explore the extent of their travels. They will be expanded over time to form an ever more complete record of their travels, both individually and as a couple; already they give an indication of the huge variety of places that they visited and venues to which they brought their music.
Image: Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears leave for Tokyo Japan on their Far East tour in 1956. Photographer: unidentified.
Select the relevant tick-box above each map to see where Britten and Pears travelled.
Tours around the world
At several points in their lives Britten and Pears undertook long tours outside Europe, typically combining performance and tourism. Five areas of the globe have been highlighted in these maps: their tours to the Far East in 1955-56, to India in 1965, to South America in 1967, to the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s, and to Australasia in 1970, showing both performance venues and the places that they visited between concerts.
Britten in America
Britten and Pears left the UK for the United States in 1939 and returned in 1942; this map brings together locations where they lived, travelled and performed during this formative period.
Travel as performers
Over careers spanning several decades, Britten and Pears performed – together and as individuals – at a huge variety of locations, from grand opera houses to village halls. This map uses data from the catalogued concert programmes held in the Britten-Pears Foundation archive and information from Britten’s letters to plot hundreds of performance locations around the world. (The maps highlighting their long-distance tours and their years in America also present selections from this information.) As cataloguing of the programmes proceeds, more venues will be added and their range will become even more apparent.
Britten and Pears as tourists
Britten and Pears travelled extensively for leisure and interest, outside their concert commitments. This map shows a sample of their travels as tourists – in some cases between concerts, in others simply on holiday. It will be added to, over time, to show a more and more complete record of the places that they visited.
Britten and Pears performing in the 1950s
To complement the exhibition Such an Artist to Write For this map looks at their performing schedule in the 1950s.