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Jane Marian Manning OBE (born 20 September 1938) is an English concert and opera soprano, writer on music, and Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music. She has been described by one critic as "the irrepressible, incomparable, unstoppable Ms. Manning – life and soul of British contemporary music"
In 1966, she married the composer Anthony Payne, but she does not use her married name professionally.
The daughter of Gerald Manville Manning and Lily Manning (née Thompson), Manning was born in Norwich in 1938 and educated at Norwich High School for Girls, the Royal Academy of Music (graduating LRAM in 1958), and the Scuola di Canto at Cureglia, Switzerland. She was promoted to ARCM in 1962.
Manning's London début was in 1964 and her first BBC broadcast in 1965. She first sang at a Henry Wood Promenade Concert in 1972, was part of The Matrix with Alan Hacker, founded her own virtuoso ensemble, called Jane's Minstrels, in 1988, and has sung regularly in concert halls and festivals throughout Europe, specialising in contemporary music, with more than three hundred world premières given. She toured Australia and New Zealand in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1996, 2000, and 2002, and the United States in 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, and 1997.
Manning's unique voice and infallible sense of pitch have made her an exemplary performer of new music. She is the author of an important book called New Vocal Repertory. She is also widely considered to be one of the world's finest performers of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire.
In his preface to Manning's 65th birthday concert at Wigmore Hall in 2003, the British critic Bayan Northcott wrote:
It was an inspired choice to present Jane Manning as Miss Donnithorne, not only because she is an artist of astonishing gift but because she is also one of the greatest performers of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and in her performance of the Maxwell Davies, the two pieces are palpably linked.... Her performance is desperately touching, the more disturbing for being played as reminiscence.... a performance of scorching intensity (without conductor).
Several leading composers have composed new works for Jane Manning including Harrison Birtwistle, James MacMillan and Colin Matthews. She commissioned the grand opera King Harald's Saga from Judith Weir in 1979. Richard Rodney Bennett's choral work Spells was written for her, as was Matthew King's The Snow Queen (1992).
The critic, Ivan Hewett, has written of Manning:
For many people Jane Manning is simply the voice of contemporary classical music in this country. Anyone who took an interest in this burgeoning area of music in the 1970s and '80s grew up with the sound of her astonishing voice in their ears. It’s instantly recognisable, but it’s also a chameleon. Whether she’s faced with the pure angular leaps of Anton Webern, the throaty suggestiveness of Schoenberg or the black, crazed humour of Gyorgy Ligeti, Jane Manning is always equal to the task.
Her premieres include the part of Max in Oliver Knussen's opera Where the Wild Things Are (1980). In 2007, she was awarded an honorary doctorate (along with her husband Anthony Payne) by the University of Durham, the first time the university has ever honoured a married couple in this way.