Janet Baker (Dame) CH, DBE, FRSA
(Born 21 August 1933)
Click here for recordings and performances by Dame Janet Baker.
Dame Janet Baker is a mezzo-soprano (now retired) who achieved an extraordinary international reputation as one of Britain's most successful and highly praised singers of the 20th Century.
She was known as a skilled performer in opera, on the concert platform and as a leading exponent of lieder.
A very famous Dido, (Les Troyens) Janet BAker was closely associated with baroque as well as early Italian opera and the works of Benjamin Britten.
During her thirty year career from the 1950s to the 1980s she was considered an outstanding singing actress and one of the best.
On the concert platform she was noted for her interpretations of the music of Gustav Mahler and Edward Elgar.
She made her stage debut in 1956 when she played Miss Roza in Smetana's "The Secret" with the Oxford University Opera Club.
Later that year she also made her Glyndebourne debut. In 1959, she sang Eduige in Rodelinda for the Handel Opera Society. Other great Handel roles Ms Baker performed with distinction included Ariodante in 1964, (of which she later made an outstanding recording) and Orlando in 1966.
With the English Opera Group at Aldeburgh, Janet Baker sang Dido and Aeneas by Purcell in 1962, Polly (Benjamin Britten's version of The Beggar's Opera) and Lucretia (in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia).
At Glyndebourne she sang Dido again in 1966 and as Diana/Jupiter in Francesco Cavalli's La Calisto. She also sang Penelope in Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria.
For the Scottish Opera she sang Dorabella in Così Fan Tutte, Dido, Octavian in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos and the role of Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. Orfeo was to become her signature role and she sang it widely and recorded a performance of it from Glyndbourne.
In 1966 Janet Baker made her Royal Opera House debut as Hermia.
She later went on to sing Berlioz's Dido, Kate in Britten's Owen Wingrave, Mozart's Vitellia and Idamantes, Cressida in William Walton's Troilus and Cressida and the title role in Gluck's Alceste in 1981 there.
She sang the title role in Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea in 1971 for the English National Opera, Charlotte in Massenet's Werther, and the title roles in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and Handel's Giulio Cesare.
She also became a noted performer of Oratorio and song and among many noted recordings, is her peformance of the Angel in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with conductor Sir John Barbirolli in 1964; her 1965 performances of Elgar's Sea Pictures and Mahler's Rückert-Lieder and also from 1965, the first commercial recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams's Christmas oratorio Hodie under Sir David Willcocks.
She also recorded highly praised song recitals with Detrich Fischer Deskau and songs from the French, German and English repertoires.
Her final operatic performance came in 1982 at Glyndebourne where she sang Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice.
Janet Baker was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1976 and a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in 1993 plus in subsequent years she recieved a host of other various awards.
Just as well she wasnt Australian or she would have been given one of those silly AM's which no one takes any notice of!
Dame Janet left an impressive discography including complete performances of Julius Caesar with the English National Opera, Orpheus and Euridice at Glyndebourne Festival Opera and La Clemenza di Tito, conducted by Sir Colin Davis.
When she retired, she REALLY retired and now keeps very much to her close friends and famously says "no one else".
There's no doubt that Janet Baker was one of Britain's foremost operatic artists and singers during the last half of the 20th Century.