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Janet Baker (b1933)

Janet Baker’s father, an engineer, was a keen amateur singer who introduced his daughter and her elder brother Peter to the North Country traditions of choral music and brass bands. She was only ten when Peter’s death came as a major shock for the whole family. After education in York and Grimsby Baker joined a bank, which in 1953 transferred her to London so that she could continue her vocal studies with Helene Isepp and later with Meriel St Clair. She made her stage début in 1956 with the Oxford University Opera Club as Miss Roza in Smetana’s The Kiss, while during the summers of 1956 and 1957 she was a chorus member and understudy at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Baker appeared as Gluck’s Orfeo for the first time in 1958 at Morley College and during the following year took the part of the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, also singing the first of many Handel rôles as Eduige in Rodelinda with the Handel Opera Group. Later Handel operas in which she appeared included Ariodante (1964) and Orlando (1966), the latter with Anthony Lewis at the Barber Institute, Birmingham: she went on to record the title rôle in Dido and Aeneas with Lewis in 1961. The following year saw Baker’s first appearance with the English Opera Group at the Aldeburgh Festival. Her rôles with this company included Purcell’s Dido, Polly/The Beggar’s Opera, Nancy/Albert Herring, and Lucretia/The Rape of Lucretia. This was also the beginning of a long




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