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Born in Audley, Staffordshire, Denise Leigh began her career as a brass player, before gaining a Sainsbury’s Gatsby Trust Award to continue her studies. Awarded a place at the Royal Northern College of Music, she continues to work with Clare Hogan.

She first came to wider prominence as a winner of the English National Opera / Channel 4 TV programme Operatunity, which won the Prix Italia 2003, and led to an appearance as Gilda in Rigoletto (shared with her co-winner Jane Gilchrist) at the London Coliseum.


It also won her the coveted role of star soprano for The Battle Proms Picnic Concerts, a role that she still holds today, performing in the gardens of some of the UK’s most celebrated stately homes each summer.


In a career with many highlights, Denise has appeared with Clonter Opera as well as at the BBC Proms in the Park, Belfast Proms in the Park, Friday Night is Music Night and Songs of Praise. She undertook an extensive concert tour, A Night at the Opera, with Jane Gilchrist, Alan Oke and Wyn Pencarreg, and has also appeared on Counterpoint and presented In Touch for the BBC. Other engagements have taken her to the Royal Albert Hall for Classic FM Live with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, the Chester Summer Music Festival and the Three Choirs Festival, Hereford.


As well as her busy theatre schedule in 2012, Denise was invited to sing a new commission by Errollyn Wallen entitled Spirit in Motion, directly after the athlete’s parade in the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games. Denise was thrilled with the secrecy and excitement surrounding the whole event, even being whisked away for dress fittings with Vivienne Westwood, who had to accommodate her advanced pregnancy as part of the dress design.

In spite of the world grinding to a halt due to the pandemic, Denise was still invited to record a broadcast concert with the BBC Singers to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Equality Act which went out on BBC Radio 3 in November 2020. Post-covid work recovery has encompassed performances at Ukraine fundraising events in her home city of Stoke-on-Trent and at the De Montfort hall in Leicester, the former leading to a full recital in June 2022 at Stoke Minster and a concert for the Music of Life Foundation at Birmingham Town hall.

Denise also gave a recital at the Museum of Liverpool in May 2023 as part of the city’s Eurovision festival and has continued with her choral society work, performing Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah with the OSJ in Oxford, The Creation and Chilcott’s Christmas Oratorio.


This has all been undertaken as Denise has gone through treatment for breast cancer, something she has publicly documented with the hope that it will help other people who are suffering with the condition, as well as acting as a written archive when she’s been too tired to remember what has happened on a certain treatment day!


Denise continues to perform at private and corporate events all over the UK, and also as an after-dinner speaker. As well as her newly undertaken patronage with Henshaws, Denise is a patron for the Music of Life Foundation and the Peter Pan Centre for Children with Special Needs. In 2008, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Staffordshire University for Services to Music.


The CD Operatunity Winners on EMI Classics was a bestseller in Britain and Northern Europe, gaining a silver disc, staying in the Classic FM top ten for 16 weeks and remaining at the number one position in the core Classical Chart for five months. It was also nominated for a BRIT Award. Denise Leigh’s debut solo CD Pie Jesu is also available on EMI.

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