Music Review: A singer who's no better than she should be

"Sod Covent Garden," cried Lesley Garrett, receiving a tumultuous reception from a packed Albert Hall at the 1996 Stonewall Benefit. Since then, she has graced that company playing Valencienne in The Merry Widow. Arch and knowing, it's a good role for her. Being an opera singer is not simply about vocal range, it's about choosing the right roles and vocal style. Garrett, for years ENO's resident uberminx (think Felicity Kendal with bigger tonsils), is in a class of her own. As pert as you like, she excels at cunning sisters and naughty maids and a whole world of women of whom it could be said: "She's no better than she should be". She's the world's leading heldensoubrette.

On disc, she has no truck with demarcation disputes, recording anything that takes her fancy and winning thousand of admirers along the way. For her sell-out Christmas concert - we knew it was Christmas because there was tinsel on the music stands - she walked on in a cloud of diaphanous white. Actually, swooped would be a better word, what with the wing effect of the veils floating between finger and frock. "And seeing as how I look a bit like an angel," she grinned, and hurled herself at arias from The Messiah. She's not backward in coming forwards is our Lesley. And "our Lesley" is how the audience felt about the winner of the "prestigious Gramophone award for the bestselling classical artist of 1996".

Peculiarly, she was miked throughout. This may have had something to do with the fact that she insisted on singing despite recovering from gastric flu. She gamely informed us that "there's a bucket in the wings if necessary," but that "from the neck up, I'm fine". I'm not so sure. The microphone merely amplified all of her usual vocal problems. Her voice has splendid attack but little warmth. When she lets her fast metallic- sounding vibrato drain away from a note the effect can be moving, but the rest of the time it sounds winningly confident but hard and inflexible. Pitching too is a problem, to say the least.

Having "searched high and low" for something to include on the Princess Diana tribute album, she landed, strangely enough, on Ravel's Pavane for a dead princess. Absolutely sincere though her intentions were, singing the newly added lyrics only served to remind me of daffy Mary Boland wandering in and out of George Cukor's movie The Women crying "Oh l'amour, l'amour, toujours l'amour".

She was at her best revelling in Gounod's "Jewel Song" but it was greeted with the same rapture as everything else on the menu. The highlight, however, was the encore, Frederick Silver's witty "The Twelve Days After Christmas", a tiny, gleeful revenge aria which Garrett leapt upon with almost indecent relish. Her vocal limitations disappeared beneath a display of genuine performance skills. It was back to soubrette time. Stick with that, I say.

News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Sport
Robin van Persie scores the third for Manchester United with a perfectly-guided header
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

    £70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all