sarah broughton

writer & artist

Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier

1 x 60' documentary for BBC FOUR

Now available on DVD including a bonus CD from DECCA Music Group Ltd.
DVD number: 074 3064

Shortlisted in the Documentary Feature category at the Celtic Film & Television Festival 2004 BAFTA nominated

Kathleen Ferrier's letters read by Patricia Routledge

When Kathleen Ferrier died at the early age of 41 in October 1953, she was as famous as the newly crowned Queen. Half a century later, although her legacy lives on through her music, Ferrier herself remains elusive. This film, which includes footage never before seen on television, will use her letters for the first time - to tell her story in her own words - and reveal the woman behind that voice.

An Ordinary Diva tells the story of Kathleen Ferrier - who she was and where she came from - and analyses how she transformed herself from popular British contralto into an international artist with a formidable reputation, revered by her public and honoured by her peers. It is a bittersweet story - for as her career soared under the guidance of Bruno Walter, John Barbirolli, Roy Henderson and Benjamin Britten - so began a nightmare as the cancer she had always feared was diagnosed. Yet, as the grip of the illness grew ever tighter, almost unbelievably, she scaled new heights of perfection in her work. Elizabeth Schwarzkopf was certainly not alone in regarding her as a genius.

Throughout these years Ferrier was a prolific letter writer. As her reputation grew she toured extensively across Europe, the US and Canada and captured, in vivid detail, her adventures in a series of postcards and letters to family and friends back at home. Part of Ferrier's appeal has always been the contrast between the earthy, humorous, warm personality off-stage and the sublimely graceful, eloquent singer who could move even an orchestra to tears with her performances on-stage. The letters reveal the "Klever Kaff" and the "Not So Klever Kaff" her fans rarely saw and serve as a poignant narrative to the ups and downs of her extraordinary life.

Dame Janet Baker, Lady Evelyn Barbirolli, Sir George Christie and Marion Thorpe are amongst those who discuss the life and legend of Kathleen Ferrier.

Narrated by Robert Lindsay.

The extraordinary radiance of the voice. I still remember that. The extraordinary, enveloping, overwhelming beauty of Ferrier's voice.
Donald Mitchell

An exceptionally moving portrait
The Times