The Britten-Pears Archive is officially opened today by legendary opera singer Dame Janet Baker. It has been built in the grounds of The Red House, Aldeburgh, the home which Benjamin Britten shared with Peter Pears from 1957 until his death in 1976.

The new archive building is the first major purpose-built composer archive in the UK. It follows a £4.7 million investment in this internationally significant heritage site by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Heritage Lottery Fund which has included the re-creation of Britten’s composing studio, where he wrote such masterpieces as War Requiem and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in situ. The space freed up on the site has been used to develop exhibition and education facilities, which will enable the BPF to bring Britten’s life and music to many more people.

The Britten archive is the most comprehensive collection of any composer in the world. It tells the story of Britten’s creative and personal life in extraordinary depth and breadth, including manuscripts for over 700 pieces of music, diaries, 80,000 letters, countless photographs, recordings, films, costumes, set models, art, books and much more. In 2005 the collection was awarded Designated status by the MLA in recognition of its cultural significance.

Designed by Stirling prize winning architects Stanton Williams, the building achieves archive conservation standards through a pioneering low-energy design. The sustainable red brick archive building complements the listed Red House and gardens.

The opening of the new Archive Centre is complemented by a new exhibition exploring Britten’s life and music with and objects and documents form the BPF’s rich collections. The exhibition will also be interactive including replicas of the original animal headdresses from Noye’s Fludd, which visitors can try on. The exhibition has been designed to appeal to all members of the family.

Richard Jarman, Director of Britten-Pears Foundation says: “To mark the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth the BPF has made a big investment in the site of The Red House, supported by the HLF. The resulting buildings will ensure that our unique collection can be kept in optimal conditions for generations to come and will bring alive to all our visitors what makes Britten one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. What we have at The Red House is exceptional – a rich and illuminating collection held in the very place where Britten lived and composed, with all its extraordinary spirit of place. It is destined to be a site of pilgrimage for music lovers all over the world.”

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The Red House is not just bricks and mortar but rather a cornucopia of music, literature, art and learning brought together under one roof. It reflects the energy and joie de vivre of Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears, and following a programme of conservation and redevelopment is now truly a fitting tribute to both men. We have played a major role in funding a number of elements of this innovative project and particularly applaud the Britten-Pears Foundation for its plans to widen the appeal of the site to visitors, both tourists and those living more locally. Britten, meritocratic to his core, would have approved of this desire to share the house and its contents with people from all walks of life.”

 

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