Lesley Garrett: ‘Older women in opera should be powerful, not bag ladies’

Lesley Garrett. Photo: Paul Harness Lesley Garrett. Photo: Paul Harness
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Lesley Garrett has highlighted the lack of roles for older women in opera, claiming roles that exist “tend to be bag ladies and witches”.

Her comments came as it was announced she would appear in a new cabaret opera inspired by the life of Welsh suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas, for Welsh National Opera.

Garrett, who last year starred in the first production of Mark Simpson’s opera Pleasure, said she was devoting her career to new work in an attempt to drive the form forward.

She added it was “particularly satisfying” that WNO was producing new work with older female leads.

“There are almost no roles for older sopranos, they’re nearly all mezzos and then they tend to be bag ladies and witches in my opinion, but if opera is going to be seen as a contemporary art for it has to write about contemporary issues, it has to write about how we are now and older women are incredibly powerful in society,” she said.

She added: “We don’t need to look further than Great Britain with our two leaders, Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon. [There is] Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde and we should have Mrs Clinton. We are absolutely vital to society and it’s important that [we] are written for in opera.”

Garrett will perform in Rhondda Rips It Up! for WNO next year as part of its 2017/18 season, which also includes a trilogy of Russian-themed operas produced later this year to mark 100 years since the Russian Revolution.

These will be a new edition of Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina.

The programme also features a three-year cycle of Verdi operas in 2018-2020.