Soprano Jane Manning is best known as a specialist in 20th century music and might well hold a record of sorts, having appeared in well over 300 world-premiere performances in concert and opera. While she has sung works from most periods, including the Renaissance era (William Byrd, in particular), her discography is rife with works by 20th century composers, from Satie, Schoenberg, and Messiaen to Birtwistle, Ligeti, and Judith Weir. Her husband is English composer Anthony Payne, several of whose works she has also premiered and recorded. Her support for new music comes not only as a performer but as an administrator and organizer, having served many years as vice president for the Society for the Promotion of New Music. She has also written several articles on vocal technique and repertory. Manning and her husband co-founded the instrumental ensemble Jane's Minstrels, which is also involved in the performance and advocacy of new music. As a singer Manning has been praised for her chameleonic voice: depending on repertory, she can sound throaty or soubrette-like or lyrical or dramatic and rich, and much else. Manning has made numerous recordings, with many available from DG, NMC, Lyrita, Sony, Philips, and Albany Records.
Jane Manning was born in Norwich, England, on September 9, 1938. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Manning first drew wide acclaim for her 1965 premiere of Elizabeth Luytens' song cycle The Valley of Hatsu-Se, presented at the Dartington Summer Festival. Thereafter Manning premiered many works by Lutyens.
1965 was also the year Manning made her first of many BBC broadcast performances. From 1976, when she first appeared at the Wexford Festival Opera, Manning began making debut appearances at major opera houses, including at the Scottish Opera (1979) and the Brussels Opera (1981). After co-founding Jane's Minstrels in 1988, Manning was able to focus more easily on presenting the repertory she most favored. Since 1995 the ensemble has made five recordings, all with Manning as soloist or as one of the vocal principals.
In 1998 Manning's musical survey, New Vocal Repertory, was published by Oxford University Press. In the new century Manning has remained active on all fronts. She gave an acclaimed concert in South Bank's Purcell Room in 2010 to commemorate her 45th anniversary of performance. On the bill, not surprisingly, were seven new works by James MacMillan, Colin Matthews, and other luminaries.