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Doncaster Features: Famous Doncastrian: Lesley Garrett
Lesley Garrett was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire, on 10 April 1955. Her mother was her main early musical influence and Lesley spent many evenings singing at the family piano with her two sisters. She decided on a singing career after experiencing opera at the age of 15. In 1977 she was accepted at The Royal Academy of Music and in 1979 she won the Decca Kathleen Ferrier Prize and joined the National Opera Studio. Within a year she had made her official stage debut at the Wexford Festival as Dorinda in Handel's Orlando.
For two years her career flourished but then she was forced to take a year's break due to a kidney complaint and the breakdown of her first marriage. However, she returned to work and continued to build up an impressive list of appearances. Between leaving The Opera Centre and joining English National Opera in 1984 she appeared twice at Wexford and sang with Welsh National Opera, Opera North, at the Buxton Festival and with Glyndebourne Touring Opera.
It was at the ENO that Garrett secured acclaim for her commanding stage presence, fine diction and agile voice which serves her so well in both serious and comic roles. Among the roles she has sung are Bella (The Midsummer Marriage, 1985), Atlanta (Xerxes, 1985), Zerlina, (Don Giovanni, 1985), Yum-Yum (Mikado, 1986), Offenbach's Eurydice, (1988), Oscar (Un Ballo in Maschera, 1989), Susanna (Marriage of Figaro, 1990), Adele (Die Fledermaus, 1991), Rose (Street Scene, 1992), Dalinda (Ariodante 1993), the title role in Offenbach's Eurydice (1988), The Cunning Little Vixen (1995) and Rosina (Barber of Seville, 1998). She was not afraid to be controversial, hitting the headlines when, as Adele, she exposed her bare bottom to the audience!
Garrett drew a wider audience for her singing when she began recording popular arias, film and theatre music. Her first album, Diva!, went silver, selling over 60,000. There followed A Soprano in the Movies (1991), Prima Donna (1992) and Simple Gifts (1994). The albums that followed, Soprano in Red (1995) and Soprano in Hollywood (1996), both went silver and Soprano in Red won the 1996 Gramophone Award for Best Selling Classical Artist.
The success of her one-off television special Viva La Diva led to the first Lesley Garrett Tonight. The six-part series combining popular arias, Broadway hits and traditional ballads drew an average audience of 3 million viewers per show and two further series were transmitted in 2000 and 2001. Other television appearances include The Lily Savage Show, Jobs for the Girls and The South Bank Show.
It is clear that Garrett has amazing stamina. She regularly tours the UK and the Albert Hall is becoming a regular venue. More albums have been added to the collection (A Soprano Inspired, Lesley Garrett - The Album, I Will Wait for You, Travelling Light, The Singer, and most recently So Deep is the Night).
Lesley Garrett has never strayed from her principle of making music accessible to all. She performs a wide ranging repertoire and her programmes and concerts bring together an eclectic mix of stars drawing on music from the opera and classical world, as well as theatre and popular music.
Lesley Garrett was awarded the CBE for services to music in the 2002 New Year Honours list. She said she was "thrilled to bits and absolutely flabbergasted" when she received the news.
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Thanks to BBCi.
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