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01:00 Mon 25th Mar 2002 |

Q.� What can you tell me about opera singer Lesley Garrett < xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

A.� Lesley Garrett is a respected opera singer around the world, and she's built her career on the belief that musical snobbery, especially in opera, should be eliminated�- music is for everyone is her ethos.

Q.� But she's British!

A.� Very much so�- born in Doncaster, but Lesley Garrett has always believed that because opera is not the exclusive property of rich music buffs, her own origins in no way preclude her status as a diva of the first division.Lesley doubtless received her intention to rise above, although never to forget, her origins from her father, whose original career was as a railwayman, although he went on to become a schoolteacher, eventually moving on to be a head teacher.

Q.� Was Lesley Garrett always going to be an opera star

A.� It seems not. At school, she opted for science A levels, although her love of music, and indeed her talent for singing, was already apparent. After school Lesley joined the Royal Academy Of Music where her talent grew and was recognised as something very special which marked her out for a future professional career as an opera singer.

Q.� Didn't she marry early

A.� She did, to one of her music teachers from the academy, although the marriage lasted only two years.In 1982, as her career was taking off, Lesley was diagnosed with a kidney infection, forcing her to stall her rising workload. Once recovered, Lesley joined The National Opera Studio and offers of work flooded in, ensuring her rise to success was rapid and sustained. Lesley became a member of The English National Opera in 1984, following that with enrolment as a Fellow Of The Royal Academy Of Music.

Q.� Obviously Lesley Garrett is very good at what she does, but what makes her so popular

A.� Lesley is adept at playing differing roles, and in a variety of settings and circumstances. She is blessed with a voice of exceptional power and range, combined with extremely clear diction, and lightness of tone. Because of these attributes, she is equally at home playing heavyweight classical roles, and also singing Broadway hits and lighter pop songs on stage and television.��

Q.� Anything else

A.� As mentioned, apart from her passion for classical opera, Lesley has always believed in deflating the elitist reputation that opera endures, always keen to break down the barriers so that everyone can enjoy the operas she loves so much. As part of this barrier breaking, Lesley has forged a tandem career in theatre and television, using her natural northern charm and down-to-earth personality to encourage audiences to hear her popular music, and maybe to experiment with some of her famous opera roles as well.

Q.� So does Lesley sing mainly operatic roles

A.� A large part of her career has been, and will continue to be involved with operatic productions, which are her first love, but she has made sure that she is in no way restricted to such performances.

During her career, Lesley has performed in opera, solo concerts, and television specials. Her television credits include a BBC2 series, which was extended thanks to its popularity, probably the first time that anyone who so clearly comes from the world of classical opera has managed to make the quantum leap into popular television.

Q.� How does she manage that

A.� Lesley Garrett, far from trying to play down her origins, has embraced them, and made them part of her overall personality. Her refusal to deny her broad northern accent, and her willingness to embrace al aspects of popular culture continue to make her the opera star of whom everyone has heard.

As well as her own television appearances, Lesley has guested with Lily Savage, and taken part in a Jobs For the Girls programme with Pauline Quirk and Linda Robson in which the craft of opera was explored and shown to an audience who might otherwise have remained unaware of its appeal.

Q.� Isn't Lesley a bit controversial as well

A.� Only slightly!�Playing Adele in a stage production of Die Fliedermous required her to (briefly) expose her bare behind�- an aspect of the production which could have sent shockwaves through the world of opera, and her own career, but has in fact only increased her reputation as an artist who believes passionately in the worth and reputation of classical opera, and who doesn't mind courting the odd headline to increase its profile.

Q.� Has she enjoyed mainstream success

A.� Very much. Lesley's albums, including Diva�- A Soprano At The Movies, and Soprano In Red and Soprano In Hollywood are all massive sellers, compared with other opera stars' recordings. Her Soprano Inspired album from 197 was the Number One classical album at the time of its release, and she also enjoyed the Number One compilation album with her contribution to the Diana Princess of Wales tribute album.

Q.� OK, she's popular, but is Lesley Garrett that good

A.� As an opera diva, Lesley Garrett is rated with the best there is. Her passion in bringing opera out of its isolation and into mainstream entertainment does not impede the main impetus of her career, which is singing classical opera roles with the greatest opera companies around the world. Opera is her first love, and it continues to occupy the majority of her time.

Q.� Is her personal life sorted out

A.� It is�- Lesley is married to her second husband, a doctor, and they have two children. It seems he�went backstage to meet her after a concert, and although she was in wearing a dressing gown, with her hair tied up, and her face plastered in cream, their eyes met, and they knew they were destined to be together.

Q.� And what now

A.� Musically, more of the same. With a hectic opera performance schedule, Lesley is not able to devote as much time as she would like to her television and theatre career, but she will continue to press for enjoyment of all music, by all people, and with that aim in mind, her future success seems assured.

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Andy Hughes

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