Next month Les­ley Gar­rett will be back on stage at Opera North for the first time in eight years and, as Nick dis­cov­ers, it’s go­ing to be emo­tional.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - The Big Inter View -

HE the­ory goes that one doesn’t really in­ter­view Les­ley Gar­rett so much as sit be­fore her – and that she only really has one gear, which ap­pears to be full throt­tle. Really there’s lit­tle else to do than sit there and let her pour forth. And so it proves when we met at the head­quar­ters of Opera North, the com­pany she be­gan her ca­reer with and to which she re­turns next month. How­ever, a few days later comes a mes­sage – Les­ley has an im­por­tant ad­di­tion to our in­ter­view.

Af­ter much to-ing and fro-ing we fi­nally speak and she says the one thing she didn’t men­tion when we met, was the death of her fa­ther, just be­fore Christ­mas.

Un­able to choke back tears, she ex­plains her fa­ther was – and re­mains still – an enor­mously im­por­tant part of what makes her who she is. It’s why, she says, she is find­ing per­form­ing the solo opera La Voix Hu­maine so very hard; the opera is about lots of things, but a cen­tral theme is loss.

It’s a very dif­fer­ent Gar­rett than the the one who ar­rived at the Opera North of­fices hav­ing spent the day re­hears­ing Poulenc’s piece all firm hand­shakes and ap­pear­ing ev­ery bit a force of na­ture.

At 10 min­utes 54 sec­onds into our time to­gether (rarely have I been so pleased to be record­ing an in­ter­view), she pauses for breath and says: “I’m sorry love, do you want to start again? Shall we start prop­erly now? What do you want to ask me about?” Al­most eleven min­utes in and the only ques­tion that’s been asked is “how are you?”

“A mix­ture of really tired and really ex­cited, it’s an amaz­ing piece and it’s get­ting a mix­ture of re­sponses – do you know the piece?” Gar­rett had be­gun. “It’s just me by my­self, which is a vir­tu­ally unique sit­u­a­tion in opera, where there’s just one char­ac­ter on stage – well, there is an­other char­ac­ter, but he’s imag­i­nary, on the end of a tele­phone, I’m hav­ing ar­gu­ments, con­ver­sa­tions, mak­ing love, all on the tele­phone, it’s quite a chal­lenge.” The words con­tinue to tum­ble out.

“There’s a 40-piece orches­tra, an au­di­ence of 1,000, that’s a chal­lenge. I didn’t want to come back with a Gil­bert and Sul­li­van, some­thing pre­dictable, I wanted to come back with some­thing no­body would as­so­ciate me with and I’m very grate­ful to Opera North for al­low­ing me to do that. It’s been eight years since my last opera, that was The Merry Widow with the Welsh Na­tional Opera and that was an op­eretta, but since then I’ve been do­ing mainly the West End show....”

Fa­mously from Don­caster – not fa­mously in the sense that she’s be­come a pro­fes­sional Tyke with no real con­nec­tion to the county, but that she has al­ways been an am­bas­sador for her home town and county – young Gar­rett was raised on a steady diet of mu­sic and a spirit of York­shire graft.

“We, well, we were poor, it’s a fact, we were poor. We had a pi­ano, but that was all we had,” she says.

What the fam­ily was rich in was as­pi­ra­tion. Af­ter train­ing at the Royal Academy of Mu­sic, she be­gan her ca­reer at

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