Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953) was only forty-one when she died of breast cancer, but during her short career she achieved both fame and fortune as a contralto singer. Born to a modest family in Blackburn, Lancashire, she seemed set for a mundane career as a telephone exchange operator until her husband inadvertently put her in for a singing competition. Soon after she meet her first vocal teacher, Professor Hutchison (whom she called "Hutchie") for short, and she never looked back. Tours round the north of England soon followed, and she subsequently moved to London. She first established herself as a unique singer of folk-songs, but under the tutelage of Bruno Walter and Sir John Barbirolli, she extended her range to include Mahler, French and German songs. Her Covent Garden debut soon followed. This documentary suffers from a lack of film of Ferrier in performance, but there are some fascinating archive recordings of her performing, as well as Ferrier in her off-duty moments, playing around with her voice while clearly intoxicated. There are plenty of memories of Ferrier from those who sang and worked with her (for example, ex-Covent Garden soprano Adele Leigh), plus insights from Ian Jack and several music critics both past and present. The documentary suggests that, while her life was cruelly cut short, she had a joie de vivre and a common touch that endeared her to everyone. She was a star in all senses of the term.
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