Up close and personal

The soprano Lesley Garrett promises an intimate and varied evening of song
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The Independent Culture

Lesley Garrett does not perform a great deal in recital with piano - she usually has an orchestra backing her - so her performance at the Guildhall Great Hall, as part of the City of London Festival, is a rare opportunity to hear her sing in a more intimate setting. "It is wonderful to sing in beautiful and natural acoustics without a microphone, where my audience can hear my voice as it is," enthuses Garrett.

The soprano, who is well-known for presenting the widest range of musical styles, will be airing some well-loved classical and popular favourites, ranging from "Greensleeves" to "The Impossible Dream", as well as material from her latest album, So Deep is the Night.

"I don't recognise boundaries in music. I sing music that I love and that touches me emotionally, from opera to oratorios to pop and folk," says Garrett. "I like a varied programme because I am easily bored."

The singer will also be venturing Vivaldi's "Nulla in mundo pax sincera", Mozart's "Porgi Amor" and Rodrigo's, Quatro madrigales amatorios. ("The first three I am still learning with my singing teacher in between dancing lessons.")

The second half of the recital will be a celebration of such 20th-century favourites as "With a Song in My Heart", "When I Fall in Love", "I Could Have Danced All Night", "Somewhere", and "If I Loved You".

Garrett cites Mozart's "Porgi Amor" and Young and Hayman's "When I Fall in Love" as the two she most enjoys singing. "They are two classic songs - both sentimental," she says. "Mozart's is a prayer that an old love will come back to love again, and the other is about a person falling in love. Both are equally as important as the other in the musical landscape."

Born in Yorkshire, in 1955, Garrett dedicated her life to singing after seeing Madame Butterfly at the age of 15. "I had never seen an opera before in my life," she recalls. "We always sung big arias around the piano at home, but this was the defining moment of my life. It changed me and showed me what my future held."

She was later awarded a scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Music. Following her first major role as Dorinda in Handel's Orlando, she worked with Opera North and the English National Opera. In 1984, Garrett was named the ENO's principal soprano.

Her most recent role on the stage was in the revival of The Barber of Seville, for ENO at the Coliseum in 2001. Next autumn, she is to sing the lead in the Welsh National Opera's production of The Merry Widow.

At the Guildhall Garrett will restrict herself to one costume change, but in bigger concerts she can change up to four times. Her outfits are designed by Caroline Charles, Maria Grach-vogel, Jenny Packham, and Vivienne Westwood, and have become rather figure-hugging. "Well, I've lost 12lb while I have been appearing on Strictly Come Dancing," she admits.

Lesley Garrett, Guildhall Great Hall, London EC2 (0845 120 7502; www.colf.org), 30 June at 7.30pm

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