Lesley Garrett

Last updated

Lesley Garrett
Born (1955-04-10) 10 April 1955 (age 64)
Thorne, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England
GenresClassical, classical-crossover
Years active1979–present
Labels Decca
Universal Classics and Jazz
Universal Music International
Website Official site

Lesley Garrett, CBE (born 10 April 1955) is an English soprano singer, musician, broadcaster and media personality. She is noted for being at home in opera and "crossover music". [1]

Order of the British Empire British order of chivalry

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Crossover is a term applied to musical works or performers who appeal to different types of audience, for example by appearing on two or more of the record charts which track differing musical styles or genres. If the second chart combines genres, such as a "Hot 100" list, the work is not a crossover.


Early life

Garrett was born in the town of Thorne, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire into a musical family. She attended Thorne Fieldside Infant and Junior Schools and Thorne Grammar School, where she performed in school plays and musicals and passed 10 O-levels and an A-level in music. [2] As she grew up she inherited her family's love of music. Her grandfather Colin Wall was a classical pianist; her father Derek worked as a railway signalman and then as a schoolteacher at Hatfield Woodhouse Primary School, eventually going on to become a headmaster. They lived nearby just south of the village; her mother Margaret (née Wall) was a talented singing seamstress and became the school secretary at Lesley's primary school. She has two sisters, Jill and Kay, one step-sister, Louise, and two step-brothers named Robert and Nicholas. When Lesley was 17 she washed dishes at the officers' mess at nearby RAF Lindholme as a summer job. [3] While a student at the Royal Academy of Music she worked as a life model, something of which she is still proud. [4]

Thorne, South Yorkshire town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster in South Yorkshire, England

Thorne is a market town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster in South Yorkshire, England. It has a population of 16,592, increasing to 17,295 at the 2011 Census.

GCE Ordinary Level subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education

The O Level is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education. It was introduced as part of British educational reform alongside the more in-depth and academically rigorous A-level in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Those three jurisdictions replaced O Levels gradually with General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) exams over time. The Scottish equivalent was the O-grade. The O Level qualification is still awarded by CIE Cambridge International Examinations, the international counterpart of the British examination Board OCR, in select locations, instead of or alongside the International General Certificate of Secondary Education qualifications. Both CIE and OCR have Cambridge Assessment as their parent organisation. The Cambridge O Level has already been phased out, however, and is no longer available in certain administrative regions.

GCE Advanced Level Subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education

The A Level is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education, as well as a school leaving qualification offered by the educational bodies in the United Kingdom and the educational authorities of British Crown dependencies to students completing secondary or pre-university education. A number of countries, including Singapore, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe have developed qualifications with the same name as and a similar format to the British A Levels. Obtaining an A Level, or equivalent qualifications, is generally required for university entrance, with universities granting offers based on grades achieved.


Garrett has had an extensive music career. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and an alumna of the prestigious National Opera Studio, she won the Decca Prize of the Kathleen Ferrier Award in 1979, thereby launching her career. [5] Her professional debut, in 1979, was as Amor in Orontea at the music festival in Batignano. She subsequently sang, in 1980, Alice in Le comte Ory at the London Coliseum and Dorinda in Orlando at the Wexford Festival, in 1981, also at Wexford, the title role in Zaide , in 1982 Sophie in Werther with Opera North and in 1984 Damigella in L'incoronazione di Poppea at Glyndebourne. [6] From 1984, as principal soprano at English National Opera, she became well known for her performances in productions of the operas Serse , Le Nozze di Figaro , Così fan tutte and Die Fledermaus . [1]

The Royal Academy of Music in London, England, is the oldest conservatoire in the UK, founded in 1822 by John Fane and Nicolas-Charles Bochsa. It received its Royal Charter in 1830 from King George IV with the support of the first Duke of Wellington. It is one of the leading conservatoires in the UK, rated fourth in the Complete University Guide and third in the Guardian University Guide for 2018. Famous Academy alumni include Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Elton John and Annie Lennox.

National Opera Studio

The National Opera Studio in London, England was established in 1977 by the Arts Council as a link between the music colleges and the six main UK opera companies. It was resident at Morley College in Lambeth until 2003, when it gained use for the first time of its own dedicated premises in Chapel Yard, Wandsworth. Former directors are Kathryn Harries, Donald Maxwell, Richard van Allen, and Michael Langdon, and its Head of Music is Mark Shanahan. It is responsible for the training of approximately twelve singers each academic year, as well as four piano répétiteurs. Its funding comes in part from the six main UK opera companies – Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and it is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (2018-2022). Representatives from each company sit on the final audition panel for selection of each year's intake. The nine-month course usually includes residencies at three of the national opera companies, as well as opera scenes performances in London throughout the year.

The Kathleen Ferrier Award is a prestigious contest for Opera singers held each April in London, England. The first competition was held in 1956. According to the Telegraph, the competition has a record of "spotting winners".

Garrett has performed across the world, in countries throughout Europe, and also the United States, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea. She has also sung opera and pop classics with Bryan Ferry, Eurythmics and Mick Hucknall to celebrate the arrival of the new century on Millennium Eve in the grounds at the Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum. [7]

Brazil Federal republic in South America

Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.

Malaysia Federal constitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia

Malaysia is a country in Southeast Asia. The federal constitutional monarchy consists of 13 states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia. Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur is the national capital and largest city while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. With a population of over 30 million, Malaysia is the world's 44th most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia. In the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries, with large numbers of endemic species.

Taiwan Country in East Asia

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a state in East Asia. Neighbouring states include the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the west, Japan to the north-east, and the Philippines to the south. The island of Taiwan has an area of 35,808 square kilometres (13,826 sq mi), with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanised population is concentrated. Taipei is the capital and largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan and Taoyuan. With 23.7 million inhabitants, Taiwan is among the most densely populated states, and is the most populous state and largest economy that is not a member of the United Nations (UN).

She played the lead role of Hanna Glawari in the Welsh National Opera's production of The Merry Widow , which toured the United Kingdom in 2005. In 2006 she sang the role of Mother Abbess in Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of The Sound of Music . In 2008, she joined the cast of Carousel as Nettie Fowler. The production toured the UK and then transferred to the West End's Savoy Theatre. In 2013 she returned to opera with the monodrama La Voix humaine for Opera North.

Welsh National Opera (WNO) is an opera company based in Cardiff, Wales; it gave its first performances in 1946. It began as a mainly amateur body and transformed into an all-professional ensemble by 1973. In its early days the company gave a single week's annual season in Cardiff, gradually extending its schedule to become an all-year-round operation, with its own salaried chorus and orchestra. It has been described by The New York Times as "one of the finest operatic ensembles in Europe".

<i>The Merry Widow</i> opera

The Merry Widow is an operetta by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen's attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L'attaché d'ambassade by Henri Meilhac.

Andrew Lloyd Webber British composer and impresario of musical theatre

Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber is an English composer and impresario of musical theatre. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of variations, two film scores, and a Latin Requiem Mass. Several of his songs have been widely recorded and were hits outside of their parent musicals, notably "The Music of the Night" and "All I Ask of You" from The Phantom of the Opera, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar, "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" from Evita, "Any Dream Will Do" from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and "Memory" from Cats. In 2001 The New York Times referred to him as "the most commercially successful composer in history". Ranked the "fifth most powerful person in British culture" by The Daily Telegraph in 2008, the lyricist Don Black stated "Andrew more or less single-handedly reinvented the musical."

She created the role of Val in Pleasure, the first opera by Mark Simpson, directed by Tim Albery and premiered at the Howard Assembly Room by Opera North, in April 2016. [8]

Mark Simpson is a British composer and clarinettist from Liverpool, who won the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2006 title on 20 May 2006, playing Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto with the Northern Sinfonia and Yan Pascal Tortelier at The Sage Gateshead. In the same year, Simpson was also the winner of the BBC Young Composer of the Year competition, becoming the only person in history to have ever won both competitions.

Tim Bronson Reginald Albery is an English stage director, best known for his productions of opera.

Garrett is a member of the board of the English National Opera and a vice president of Harrogate International Festivals.

In 2002 Garrett was appointed a CBE for her services to music. She was also awarded with a BASCA Gold Badge Award, October 2010, in recognition of her contribution to music. [9]

Performances at sporting events

Garrett has performed at several FA Cup Finals, including the 2000 Final, the last to be held at the old Wembley Stadium, [1] the 2007 final held at new Wembley Stadium (alongside Sarah Brightman), and the 2008 Final (alongside Katherine Jenkins).

She also sang the British national anthem on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in 2012 after Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France, though her performance was not universally appreciated. [10] [11]

Television and radio

In 2004 Garrett was one of the participants in the first series of the celebrity talent contest Strictly Come Dancing ; she and her dance partner Anton du Beke finished third. In the same year she took part in the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? , a genealogy documentary series, in which she journeyed through her home town of Thorne in search of her family history. Garrett was delighted to discover that the musical gene stretched far back and had run in her family for several generations. [12] Garrett is a veteran of Dictionary Corner on the Channel 4 game show Countdown and in June 2005 it was thought that she was to become one of the show's rotating guest hosts while Richard Whiteley was recovering from illness. After Whiteley's death, however, the plan for rotating guest hosts was abandoned and Des Lynam took the role for the next fifteen months. Garrett did not appear on Countdown again until October 2009.

On Christmas Day 2004 BBC Two broadcast Lesley Garrett – Music from the Movies, co-starring her with Ruthie Henshall, Michael McCarthy with the backing of the Opera North orchestra. [13] The programme was recorded at the Opera In The Park concert which had taken place in the grounds of Temple Newsam, West Yorkshire on 19 July 2003. [14]

In February 2005 Garrett was selected to be one of the judges for BBC's Comic Relief does Fame Academy , and in May she hosted and sang at the 2005 Classical BRIT Awards at the Royal Albert Hall on ITV. In 2006 Garrett was a regular panellist on the ITV daytime show Loose Women ; she featured there again in 2009 and 2010, before returning in May 2014. Garrett also appeared on This Morning and Loose Women in 2007, to perform a song from her latest album When I Fall in Love. She also continued the post as a judge on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy in 2007. [15] Garrett currently presents a show on the British classical radio station Classic FM.

From February 2008 Garrett presented the show Lesley Garrett's 20 Operas to See Before You Die on Sky Arts . [16]

Over four weeks, beginning on 30 November 2008, she presented the Sunday morning BBC1 programme Christmas Voices. [17]

In November 2010 she joined a long line of panellists on Five's The Wright Stuff .

Along with Larry Lamb, Garrett presented a short BBC series entitled When Royals Wed to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in April 2011.

On 30 May 2014 she made her return to the ITV daytime show Loose Women . It was announced on the programme that she would become a regular panellist again.

On 10 Sep 2017 she featured on the TV show 'My Life on a Plate' when a Brian Turner accompanied her on a trip to key locations from her childhood in Yorkshire, where she was taught by her parents to make the most out of what was available. The chef then creates two dishes that weave nostalgia and the taste of home together.

Personal life

Garrett married in May 1991: her husband, Peter, [18] is a GP in Muswell Hill. They have a son, Jeremy, and a daughter, Chloe. The family lives in north London.

Garrett featured in an episode of the BBC's popular genealogy programme, Who Do You Think You Are? , in which she explored her family's Yorkshire origins. She found out about the musicians in her family: her maternal grandfather made a living playing the piano with a small orchestra that accompanied silent films at cinemas in and around Sheffield. A great-grandfather was a travelling musician, working across Northern England in the 19th century, playing to workers in pubs and clubs. During World War I he entertained troops on the piano. [19]


As a recording artist, Garrett has released eleven solo albums. Many of them have been successful, receiving gold and silver status. Soprano in Red received the Gramophone Award for "Best-selling Classical Artist of the Year". Garrett was also a featured artist on the platinum selling "Perfect Day" single released by the BBC in aid of Children in Need. [7]

Garrett created the role of Cathy in the London studio recording of Bernard J. Taylor's operatic version of Wuthering Heights , which also featured Dave Willetts, Bonnie Langford and other leading singers from the British musical stage. Her rendition of "I Belong to the Earth" was included on two of her solo albums.

Other recordings include complete audio operas: Mozart's The Magic Flute (Papagena) conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, Mozart's Così fan tutte (Despina), also conducted by Mackerras and Yum-Yum in the audio and video recordings of the Jonathan Miller production of The Mikado from ENO. She appears on two other DVDs of complete works from English National Opera, Handel's Ariodante (Dalinda) and Xerxes (Atalanta). In the video of the 1984 Glyndebourne L'incoronazione di Poppea under Raymond Leppard, she sings Nutrice and Valletto.

Solo albums

Studio [20]

Compilation albums

  • The Soprano's Greatest Hits (1997) – UK No. 53
  • The Best of Lesley Garrett (2004)

Solo DVDs


* Reprint of Notes From a Small Soprano with few edits. Also the title of some copies of the audiobook.

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  1. 1 2 3 "UK | Lesley Garrett: Doncaster's own diva". BBC News. 31 December 2001. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  2. Daily Mail Weekend Interview. 12 May 2012, p6
  3. Liz Phillips (13 June 2007). "Lesley Garrett: My money". This is Money. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  4. Paton, Maureen (3 June 2012). "This LIfe, Lesley Garrett | Get up and go". Mygetupandgo.co.uk. Archived from the original on 30 July 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  5. "The Kathleen Ferrier Awards – Winners" . Retrieved 6 March 2008.
  6. Adam, Nicky (ed) (1993). Who's Who in British Opera. Aldershot: Scolar Press. p. 98. ISBN   0-859-67894-6.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. 1 2 Archived 22 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  8. Martin Dreyer. Report from Leeds. Opera , July 2016, Vol 67 No. 7, p895-897.
  9. http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/global/1198863/gold-badges-for-heather-small-john-paul-jones
  10. Christiansen, Rupert (23 July 2012). "Lesley Garrett's ghastly rendition of the National Anthem at Tour de France ceremony". The Telegraph .
  11. Losh, Jack (23 July 2012). "Tour de Farce opera solo leaves Wiggins in pain". The Sun .
  12. "Who Do You Think You Are? with Lesley Garrett". Who Do You Think You Are?. 30 November 2004. BBC. BBC Two.
  13. Garrett, Lesley; Henshall, Ruthie; McCarthy, Michael (2004). "Lesley Garrett – Music from the Movies". BBC Two . Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  14. McCarthy, Michael; Garrett, Lesley; Henshall, Ruthie (2004). Lesley Garrett – Music from the Movies (Media notes). Eagle Rock Entertainment. ASIN   B000HN328M. Barcode: 5036369804497. Archived from the original on 18 April 2015.
  15. Archived 13 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Archived 19 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  17. Archived 30 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  18. "Fame & Fortune: Opera singer Lesley Garrett". Telegraph. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
  19. "Who Do You Think You Are?". BBC. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  20. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 222. ISBN   1-904994-10-5.