Adele Leigh

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The lyric soprano Adele Leigh enjoyed a successful career in opera and light operetta as well as on the variety stage. She appeared at the Covent Garden Opera and the New York City Opera in many leading roles and toured the UK with stars such as Harry Secombe and Bruce Forsyth.

Born in London on June 15, 1928 Leigh decided to become an opera singer while still in her teens. She trained at RADA and later at the Juilliard School in New York and in 1948 joined the opera company at Covent Garden.

She began to make a name for herself in role such as Countess Ceprano in Verdi’s Rigoletto, Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro and Pamina in The Magic Flute. She also created the part of Bella in the premiere of Michael Tippett’s Midsummer Marriage.

In 1959 she made her debut with the New York City Opera in The Merry Widow and the following year retured there as Musetta in La Boheme.

On the variety stage in the UK she occasionally sang with Geraldo’s orchestra and made several broadcasts on light entertainment radio shows. She toured with Secombe and also appeared with him at the London Palladium. In 1957 she co-starred with Secombe in the film Davy. She also toured with Forsyth and made several TV appearances on The Adam Faith Show.

In 1963 she made her first appearance in Zurich singing light operetta roles which would later bring her fame at the Volksoper in Vienna. In 1967 she met and married the Austrian diplomat Kurt Enderel, who later became Austrian Ambassador to London.

Although she retired in the seventies, she appeared as Gabrielle in Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne at the 1984 Brighton Festival. Three years later she accepted an offer from Stephen Sondheim to sing the role of Heidi Schiller in the London production of Follies.

From the early nineties she taught music and drama at the Royal College of Music in Manchester.

She died on May 23, aged 75. Her husband predeceased her.

Patrick Newley

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster