A Charm of Lullabies was written in December 1947 for the mezzo-soprano Nancy Evans. She had recently taken part in the first productions of The Rape of Lucretia, in which she sang the title role, and Albert Herring, in which she took the part of Nancy (appropriately enough). A year later, she would appear again as Polly Peachum in Britten’s version of The Beggar’s Opera.
Keen to provide her with a work for her recital programmes, Britten was helped in the choice of texts for A Charm of Lullabies by Evans’ husband Eric Crozier, who had recently written the libretto for Albert Herring. As with the Serenade of 1943, the work brings together an anthology of diverse texts unified by the themes of night and sleep.
The work is one of the most genial and uncomplicated of Britten’s song-cycles, though contrast is provided in the more agitated undercurrents of the two central songs, settings of Robert Greene’s ‘Sephestia’s Lullaby’ and Thomas Randolph’s ‘A Charm’.