Janet Baker’s lifetime

by Keith Clarke

On the day that she receives Gramophone’s Lifetime Achievement Award at London’s Dorchester Hotel, mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker gives a fascinating interview in today’s Telegraph [click here].
She reveals her regret at how when Karajan contacted her agent, the legendary Emmie Tillett, to book Baker for the Salzburg Festival, he was sent on his way because the mezzo had a prior engagement.

It’s a familiar story, for regret seems to be Baker’s middle name. She regretted that it took the opera establishment so long to book her for the big roles. She regretted, as she tells Rupert Christiansen in this Telegraph piece, that “musicians weren’t, as I had naively assumed, always the nicest or easiest people to work with.”

And the regret went deeper, for a singer who has always been more interested in honesty than public relations. In a radio interview some years ago, the presenter asked her, looking back over her career and its cost to her personal life, had it all been worthwhile? There was a long silence before she said, simply – no, it hadn’t.


A recent survey revealed that 90 per cent of UK surgeons have music playing in the operating theatre as they work. Of those, about half worked the scalpels to up-tempo rock music, 17 per cent favored pop, and 11 per cent classical. Plastic surgeons played the most; ear, nose and throat specialists the least.

The question is, which piece of classical music would you want blasting away as the surgeon set to work? Top choice for pop fans is easy: Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed.

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