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Janet Baker (Mezzo-soprano, Contralto)

Born: August 21, 1933 - Hatfield, South Yorkshire, North England, UK

The English mezzo-soprano, Dame Janet Baker (Abbott), studied music in London in 1953 with Helene Isepp and Meriel St Clair. She has enjoyed an extensive operatic career, especially in early Italian opera and the works of Benjamin Britten. As a concert performer, she is noted for her interpretations of Gustav Mahler and Edward Elgar.

Janet Baker made her debut in 1956 as Miss Róza in The Secret (Oxford University Opera Club) and at the same year she appeared for the first time in Glyndebourne , and took second place at the Kathleen Ferrier Prize competition. In 1959 she won the Queen’s Prize at the Royal College of Music. That same year she sang Eduige in the Handel Opera Society’s Rodelinda; other George Frideric Handel roles included Ariodante (1964) and Orlando (1966), which she sang at the Barber Institute, Birmingham. With the English Opera Group at Aldeburgh she sang Purcell’s Dido (1962), Polly (B. Britten’s version of The Beggar’s Opera) and Lucretia. At Glyndebourne she appeared again as Dido (1966) and as Diana/Jupiter (Calisto) and Penelope (Il ritorno d’Ulisse). For Scottish Opera she sang Dorabella, Dido (Troyens), Octavian, the Composer and Gluck’s Orpheus. At Covent Garden, having made her debut in 1966 as Hermia, she sang Berlioz’s Dido, Kate in owen wingrave (the role she created in its original television version in 1971), Mozart’s Vitellia and Idamantes, Walton’s Cressida and Gluck’s Alcestis (1981). For the English National Opera she sang Poppaea, Donizetti’s Mary Stuart, Charlotte (Werther) and G.F. Handel’s Julius Caesar. In 1982 she retired from opera, after singing Mary Stuart at the ENO and Gluck’s Orpheus at Glyndebourne. She described her final opera season and her career in Full Circle (London, 1982).

Complete emotional identification with her roles, many of which she recorded, and a rich, expressive and flexible voice enabled Janet Baker to excel in florid as well as dramatic music.

Janet Baker was created a DBE in 1976. She became a Companion of Honour in 1994.


More Photos

Source: Website; Website; Liner notes to the 3-LP album 'Bach: Mass in B minor', conducted by Otto Klemperer (EMI, 1968)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001); Peter Bright (January 2008)

Janet Baker: Short Biography | Baker does Bach

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Daniel Barenboim


BWV 243

Benjamin Britten


BWV 35, BWV 102

Carlo Maria Giulini


BWV 232

Wolfgang Gönnenwein


BWV 79, BWV 80, BWV 126, BWV 148, BWV 149

Otto Klemperer


BWV 232 [2nd & 3rd]

Philip Ledger


BWV 248

Raymond Leppard


G.F. Handel: Cantata Armida Abbandonata, HWV 105

Neville Marriner


BWV 159, BWV 170, BWV 232
Arias for Alto from BWV 6, BWV 11, BWV 34, BWV 129, BWV 161, BWV 190, BWV 243, BWV 245, BWV 248, BWV 249, BWV 508

Yehudi Menuhin


BWV 82 [1st], BWV 169

Karl Richter


BWV 244 [5th ]

Paul Steinitz


Selections from BWV 244

David Willcocks


BWV 147

Links to other Sites

Baker, Dame Janet (Abbott) (OperaMusic)


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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 16:02