Lesley Garrett CBE (18 November)

GarrettFew sopranos have succeeded as Lesley Garrett has in presenting opera and musicals to the widest audience without patronising either the art form or her public. Her love and commitment to the widest range of music for soprano was there from the beginning. Born to music-loving parents in Thorne near Doncaster (her seamstress mother was a talented singer, her father a railway signalman who became Headmaster at Hatfield Woodhouse Primary School), she performed in school plays and musicals at her local Grammar School before going on to study with Joy Mammen at London’s Royal Academy of Music, proudly working as a life model to supplement her student budget. Her career was launched in 1979 when she won the Decca Prize of the Kathleen Ferrier Award, singing Amor in Cesti’s Orontea the same year. Engagements followed at English National Opera (Alice in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory), Wexford (Dorinda in Handel’s Orlando and the title role in Mozart’s Zaïde), Opera North (Sofie in Massenet’s Werther) and Glyndebourne (Damigella in Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea). The present writer remembers her performance in the title role of Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen at ENO in the 1980s in which her agility – both vocal and physical – was wonderful to behold. In subsequent years she has performed at all of the above opera houses and more, most recently as Val in Mark Simpson’s Pleasure (Opera North, 2016) and Mrs Rutland in Nico Muhly’s Marnie (English National Opera, 2017), the latter conducted by ENO’s music director Martyn Brabbins (Putney Music 2015-16). She continues to delight audiences in musicals, having sung the role of the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music and Nettie in Carousel. She has appeared on television’s Strictly Come Dancing, Who Do You Think You Are? and Countdown, and has sung at sporting events, including FA cup finals in 2000, 2007 and 2008. Her discography ranges from the roles of Papagena in The Marriage of Figaro and Despina in Cosi fan Tutte (both conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras), through A Soprano in Hollywood (songs by Richard Rogers and Victor Herbert among others) to the platinum-selling single Perfect Day, released by the BBC in aid of Children in Need.

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