Biography

Lesley Garrett CBE is Britain’s best known soprano, regularly appearing in opera, music theatre, concert, on television and CD. For more than 30 years she has enjoyed one of the most successful and idiosyncratic careers of any modern-day, classically trained soprano, winning both critical acclaim and the affection of many fans and music lovers through the breadth and diversity of her work. Internationally Lesley has performed throughout Europe, the USA, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea. 

As a recording artist, she has fourteen solo CDs to her credit; Soprano in Red received the GramophoneAward for ‘Best-selling Classical Artist of the Year’, Diva! A Soprano At The MoviesPrima DonnaSimple Gifts, Soprano in RedSoprano in Hollywood, and I Will Wait for You all received silver discs and A Soprano Inspired, Lesley Garrett and When I fall In Love all achieved gold discs. Recent albums are Travelling Light, The Singer, So Deep is the Night and Amazing Grace. She was also a featured artist on the platinum selling Perfect Day single released by the BBC in aid of Children in Need

As well as recordings of Handel and Gilbert and Sullivan operas, Lesley’s most recent classical recordings were for Sir Charles Mackerras’s Magic Flute and Cosi Fan Tutte and her most recent solo album A North Country Lass was released in April 2012.

Lesley’s major television appearances include Lesley Garrett…TonightThe Lesley Garrett ShowThe SingerSacred Songs and Lesley Garrett – Desert Dreams, Christmas Voices, Who Do You Think You Are, Strictly Come Dancing, Loose Women and most recently a Songs of Praise Special – My Story, My Music with Aled Jones for the BBC. Lesley was also the subject of a South Bank Show on LWT.

Lesley continues to perform regularly in concert with all the major UK orchestras including the Hallè Orchestra with Sir Mark Elder, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2014 she has toured with the European Union Chamber Orchestra and sang with the Russian National Orchestra and she has recently formed a highly successful new musical partnership with clarinettist Emma Johnson and pianist Andrew West. 

Lesley’s operatic career included engagements at the Wexford Festival, Buxton Festival, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, and Glyndebourne Festival Opera before joining English National Opera as Principal Soprano in 1984. During her time with ENO, Lesley starred in many productions and won critical acclaim for her portrayals of both comic and serious roles including Xerxes, Ariodante, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, A Midsummer Marriage, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Mikado and Un Ballo in Maschera working with Sir Jonathan Miller, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Richard Jones, Sir Charles Mackerras, David Alden, David Poutney, Sir Mark Elder and Graham Vick amongst many others.

Lesley made her Royal Opera debut in their production of The Merry Widow in 1997.  She returned to the Coliseum in a revival of her acclaimed Rosina in Rossini’s Barber of Sevillehaving first performed the role there in 1998 and sang Hannah Glawari in a new production of The Merry Widow with Welsh National Opera.  Keen to explore the challenging and different vocal discipline of the West End musical, Lesley has made more recent acclaimed appearances in The Sound of Music and Carousel.

In 2013 Lesley returned to the opera stage with a new production at Opera North in which she enjoyed a great success singing the role of Elle in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine.  In 2015 she sang in a specially devised production of Chorus for Welsh National Opera and Despina in a new production of Cosi Fan Tutte for Garsington Opera. She also gave a UK tour of her ‘An Evening With’, in which she was interviewed about her career, illustrating it with favourite arias and songs, with which she’s become known. 

In 2016 she received rave reviews for her performance as Val in Opera North’s world premiere production of Mark Simpson’s opera, Pleasure. In the summer she appeared in a very successful series of performances of the music of Richard Rodgers in London with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and was the star guest at the BBC Belfast ‘Proms in the Park’. Last autumn she toured again with ‘An Evening With’ and appeared a number of times on BBC and ITV. She reprised the tour last spring and also recorded two songs as a guest artist on the latest CD from G4. Lesley was also one of the contestants in BBCTV’s ‘Celebrity MasterChef’ in 2017.

In the autumn Lesley returned to English National Opera for the world premiere production of Nico Muhly’s Marnie in which she played Mrs Rutland. In 2018 she appeared with WNO in another world premiere creating the role of Emcee in Rhonda Rips It Up!, based on the life of suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda). The autumn also saw Lesley make her acting debut in a revised version of Patrick Barlow’s play, The Messiah for the National Theatre of Brent, on tour and in the West End and in 2019 she created the role of Catherine Eddoes in ENO’s world premiere of Iain Bell’s opera, Jack the Ripper. After high-profile summer concerts she toured the UK again in autumn 2019 with her one-woman show and also made her pantomime debut in the New Wimbledon Theatre! She was to reprise the role of Catherine Eddoes last year with Opera North, but it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Another tour of her one-woman show also fell victim to postponement, but has been rescheduled for 2021, as has the Opera North production.

In 2000 Lesley published her autobiography “Notes from a small soprano.” She was awarded a CBE in the 2002 New Year’s Honours List for Services to Music and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and an RAM Board Member. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Sheffield and the Open University. She continues to study regularly with Australian born Joy Mammen, her singing teacher for more than 35 years.

Last Updated on 31st March 2021