Overture? We took the 11-plus in the headmaster's living-room. We were sat so close together that I couldn't help seeing other people's papers; as I couldn't bear to put down any answer I'd seen, I would put down a wrong one instead. I discovered afterwards I was expected to come first in my school, but I came fourth or fifth.
First movement? I got eight O-levels: English language (twice - I took it a year early, and then again to get a better mark), English literature, music, maths, geography, chemistry, physics and biology - and a CSE in geology in the sixth form. I failed French.
Key notes? I got merits and distinctions in the singing exams of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. I had laryngitis at the last one.
Wrong notes? Half-way through my science A-levels at Thorne Grammar School, near Doncaster, I said that I wanted to do music A-level and the headmistress changed all the timetables round. I passed music and general studies with a couple of Ds and got only an O-level grade in biology.
First solo? At the tender age of nearly 18 I won the Cleethorpes Cup for the overall grand winner in the Cleethorpes Music Festival. My chums from the RAF base where I was washing pots came to the pub to celebrate. They gave me a drink which featured a half of Guinness with an optic-full of every spirit behind the bar. My husband, who is a GP, says it could have killed me.
Encores? The day after the Cleethorpes Cup, I auditioned for, and got, a County Major award for a place at the Royal Academy of Music.
Next movement? I kept winning prizes at the Royal Academy, so I stayed for six years. These paid the fees for my year at the National Opera Studio.
A long run? I had 20 years of state-supported education, from 1960 to 1980.
Low notes? In 1982 I had three failures: my first marriage; my kidney; and my voice, which just disappeared for about a year. I was rehabilitated by my singing teacher Joy Mammen and the Musicians' Benevolent Fund.
High notes? I had two silver discs, for Diva and for Soprano in Red, which also won the Gramophone award for best-selling classical album of the year. In January 1993, 10 days after the birth of my first child, the Variety Club gave me the Sir James Carreras award. It was for "outstanding new talent", although I thought I'd been going for some time, actuallynReuse content