Dame Janet Baker

Dame Janet Baker biography

The International Opera Awards 2013

Dame Janet Baker (1933 - present) is an English mezzo-soprano, known for her wide-ranging career which spanned the 1950s-1980s.

  • Born in Hatfield in Yorkshire, Baker attended York College for Girls, progressing on to Wintringham Girls' Grammar School. Her musical talent may have been genetic; her engineer father was a keen singer in a male voice choir.
  • After moving to London in 1953, the singer didn't have the most conventional start to her performance career: she worked in a bank while she trained with Meriel St Clair and Helene Isepp.
  • Baker made her stage debut with the Oxford University Opera club in 1956, quickly progressing to the Glyndebourne stage, making her debut the same year.
  • The mezzo is particularly associated with Britten's works, and was frequently asked to perform music by the great British composer at the his festival at Aldeburgh.
  • Her recording of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder with The Hallé Orchestra, conducted by John Barbirolli, is one of her most famous releases. Her portrayals of music by the German composer, including a version of Symphony No. 2 and Das Lied von der Erde, are very highly regarded.
  • In 1970, the singer was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), and was appointed to Dame Commander in 1976.
  • Her final operatic appearance was as Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, on 17 July 1982 at Glyndebourne, but she went on to become Chancellor of the University of York, and a patron of the Leeds International Piano Competition.

Did you know?
Dame Janet was knocked down by a bus in 1956, which gave her a painful back injury for the rest of her life. Despite her trauma, she came second at the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Competition, shooting into national consciousness.

Dame Janet Baker - Video