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Sir Peter Neville Luard Pears ( "peerz";Farnhammarker, 22 June 1910 – Aldeburghmarker, 3 April 1986) was an Englishmarker tenor and life-long partner of the composer Benjamin Britten.

He was educated at Lancing College and went on to study music at Keble College, Oxfordmarker, serving as organist at Hertford Collegemarker, but left without taking his degree. He later studied voice for two terms at the Royal College of Musicmarker. He claimed that it was hearing the tenor Steuart Wilson singing the Evangelist in Bach's St Matthew Passion which 'started me off'.

He met Britten in 1936, when he was a member of the BBC Singers. Pears and Britten gave their first recital together in 1937 at Balliol College, Oxford Universitymarker. They left for America together as conscientious objectors when WWII became inevitable. Upon their return to England in 1942, they performed Britten's Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo together at Wigmore Hallmarker on 23 September, and then recorded them for EMI, their first recording together.

Many of Britten's works contain a main tenor role written specifically for Pears. These include the Nocturne, the Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, the Canticles, the operas Peter Grimes and Albert Herring (title roles), The Beggar's Opera (Macheath), Owen Wingrave (Sir Philip Wingrave), Billy Budd (Captain Vere), The Turn of the Screw (Quint), Death in Venice (Aschenbach) and the three Church Parables.

Pears was co-librettist for A Midsummer Night's Dream, and created one of his few comic roles in it: As Flute the Bellows-mender he performed a drag parody of Joan Sutherland in the mad scene of Lucia di Lammermoor.

His voice was controversial, the vocal quality being unusual, described as "dry" and "white" and that "it took some getting used to". It was cruelly said that he had one good note, E-natural a third above middle C , which is why the crucial aria of Peter Grimes, "Now the Great Bear and Pleiades", is mainly written on that note. Its quality did not always record well, but there is no doubt that he had unusually good articulation and vocal agility, of which Britten also took advantage. His delivery, and Britten's compositional style, was mercilessly (and accurately) satirised by Dudley Moore in Beyond the Fringe (Little Miss Muffet).

He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in October 1974 as Aschenbach in Death in Venice. He sang regularly at the Royal Opera Housemarker and other major opera houses in Europe and the United States.

During his life he was considered a notable interpreter of Franz Schubert's Lieder, usually with Britten as accompanist. He also gave notable performances as the Evangelist in Johann Sebastian Bach's Passions.

Pears was knighted in 1978.

He is buried in the churchyard of St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Aldeburghmarker, Suffolk. The grave of his partner, Benjamin Britten lies next to his, close to the grave of Imogen Holst, a close friend.


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