ON this page, it’s pretty safe to say, you see bubbly opera star Lesley Garrett as you’ve never seen her before.
That rigidly coiffured, purse-lipped look speaks of a woman on the edge, and the fag and the wine glass do nothing to dispel that impression.
This is Lesley back in the operatic groove after years in which she become a TV star and household name – although, to be fair, this is not Lesley you see but her character, Elle.
Elle is the only character in the one-act opera La Voix Humaine, written by French composer Francis Poulenc in 1959 and based on a play by Jean Cocteau.
It’s a challenging role – an overwrought woman talking to her ex-lover. As Lesley told me last year: “I’m on the telephone for the whole opera having a nervous breakdown.”
She added that it was a huge challenge but it was what she had wanted.
“I’ve been away from opera too long. I think I confused the operatic world when I did The Sound of Music and Carousel.”
Opera North weren’t confused. The Northern lass – Lesley grew up in South Yorkshire – has always been on their radar, and no wonder.
She went to the Royal Academy of Music, won a coveted Kathleen Ferrier Award and was a principal soprano at English National Opera. A bit of light entertainment can never take all that away from her.
And now Lesley is back, carrying this short blast of operatic intensity on her own shoulders.
“La Voix Humaine is short in length but not on emotional intensity,” advise the Leeds-based opera company.
“Through the lone voice of the woman, Poulenc expresses all the pain and fear of rejection in the rawest fashion, while enveloping her voice in music of caressing warmth and sensuality.”
Lasting about 40 minutes, and sung (increasingly despairingly) in English, La Voix Humaine is to be performed at the Theatre Royal tomorrow and Friday in a double bill with Henry Purcell’s hour-long Dido and Aeneas, which Opera North describe as the finest English opera for three centuries.
A rich Opera North programme also includes performances of Verdi’s Otello on Wednesday and Saturday and Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito on Thursday.
Both of these are new productions, the former directed by Tim Albery and the latter by John Fulljames. Both are sung in Italian with English surtitles. Ronald Samm, born in Trinidad & Tobago, sings the part of Otello, while David Kempster is scheming Iago and Elena Kelessidi is Desdemona.
The Mozart opera, billed as a tale of erotic obsession and divided loyalties set in Ancient Rome, features tenor Paul Nilon as Emperor Tito and Annemarie Kremer as the alluring Vitellia who has designs on him.
Call the Theatre Royal box office on 08448 112121 or visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk