Friday, 15 May 2015

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Lesley Garrett

is an English opera singer. She's had her own TV series, 14 solo albums & has performed around the world. She was a principal soprano at ENO & member of their board. She is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music & has a CBE for services to music

What are you working on?
A new production of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, which I haven’t done in Italian since Glyndebourne in 1984. It’s so exciting to rediscover Mozart.

When are you at your happiest?
When I’m on the stage, or with my family.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing my voice.

What is your earliest memory?
I was in my cot and I was aware of this cold thing underneath me that I didn’t like. The top sheet had ruffled and it was the rubber mattress protector. I remember my mum standing at the end of my cot. When I described the apron she was wearing, she said, ‘My goodness, I had that pinny till you were about one.’ So I was about nine months old.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
There are things I try to improve all the time but as I get older I have to appreciate, not chastise, myself.

Who has been your greatest influence?
My parents. They were railway workers who became schoolteachers. My dad had no qualifications so he had to take his books to work and study when he wasn’t pulling levers in his signal box. He passed the exams to teacher training college and mum followed him. It is a wonderful example of what you can do if you put your mind to it.

What is your most treasured possession?
My CBE. When the Queen pins a CBE onto your lapel and says, ‘I am pleased to honour you for all you have done for music in my country,’ it blows you away.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Meanness.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
That my legs are a bit short.

What is your favourite piece of music?
It tends to be what I’m working on at the time.

What is your favourite book?
I’m very fond of Ray Mears – his Essential Bushcraft.

What is your favourite film?
Field Of Dreams.

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And your favourite music?

Anything by Tchaikovsky, Percy Grainger or Richard Rodgers.

What is your favourite meal?
Italian: Parma ham with Parmesan shavings, sundried tomatoes, focaccia, a green salad, avocado and mozzarella with olive oil and lemon juice, then a piece of fish with almonds, toasted pine nuts and olive oil.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Golda Meir.

What is the nastiest thing someone has ever said to you?
The Coliseum Chorus, when I worked there, called me the John Lewis of opera: ‘Lesley Garrett, never knowingly upstaged’. If that’s the nastiest thing, then I’m not doing badly.

Do you believe in aliens?
Yes, and I can’t wait for them to get here. It’s time we had a more interesting species to talk to. I very much hope they’ll be music lovers.

What is your secret vice?
Playing Patience on my iPad – it has cost me weeks of my life.

Do you write thank-you notes?
I write thankyou emails or texts.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
You were marvellous!

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Losing a stone in weight.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I think everybody knows everything by now.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘She did it her way’. Or ‘I did it my way’.

Lesley Garrett performs in Garsington Opera’s Cosi Fan Tutte from 5 June to 11 July – www.garsingtonopera.org – for dates of the free screenings to take place in Grimsby, Louth, Oxford, Ramsgate and Waddesdon: www.operaforall.org


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