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Doncaster Features: Famous Doncastrian: Dame Janet Baker

Dame Janet Baker of Donny

Dame Janet Baker

Born: August 21, 1933 - Hatfield, South Yorkshire, North England, UK

The English mezzo-soprano, Dame Janet Baker (Abbott) studied music in London in 1953 with Helene Isepp and Meriel St Clair. She has enjoyed an extensive operatic career, especially in early Italian opera and the works of Benjamin Britten. As a concert performer, she is noted for her interpretations of Mahler and Elgar.

She made her debut in 1956 as Miss Róza in The Secret (Oxford University Opera Club) and at the same year she appered for the first time in Glyndebourne. In 1959 she sang Eduige in the Händel Opera Society's Rodelinda; other Händel roles included Ariodante (1964) and Orlando (1966), which she sang at the Barber Institute, Birmingham. With the English Opera Group at Aldeburgh she sang Purcell's Dido (1962), Polly (Britten's version of The Beggar's Opera) and Lucretia. At Glyndebourne she appeared again as Dido (1966) and as Diana/Jupiter (Calisto) and Penelope (Il ritorno d'Ulisse). For Scottish Opera she sang Dorabella, Dido (Troyens), Octavian, the Composer and Gluck's Orpheus.

At Covent Garden, having made her debut in 1966 as Hermia, she sang Berlioz's Dido, Kate in owen wingrave (the role she created in its original television version in 1971), Mozart's Vitellia and Idamantes, Walton's Cressida and Gluck's Alcestis (1981). For the ENO she sang Poppaea, Donizetti's Mary Stuart, Charlotte (Werther) and Händel's Julius Caesar. In 1982 she retired from opera, after singing Mary Stuart at the ENO and Gluck's Orpheus at Glyndebourne. She described her final opera season and her career in Full Circle (London, 1982).

Complete emotional identification with her roles, many of which she recorded, and a rich, expressive and flexible voice enabled her to excel in florid as well as dramatic music.

She was created a DBE in 1976. She became a Companion of Honour in 1994.

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