SPEAKING to Lesley Garrett is a joy, especially when she tells you two of her nicknames were Gobby Garrett and The John Lewis of opera, never knowingly upstaged.

She answered all the questions I asked of her with gusto and an honest truth which was refreshing and a delight to hear.

Lesley is, of course, an opera star who has performed on some of the grandest stages around the world and with the top opera groups but she has an unpretentious quality which is admirable.

As I found out, she is like a perpetual wheel of learning.

My first question was: ‘How much do you think you have learnt about yourself during your career?

She replied: “That is a question I have never been asked before.

I think I am still learning and I am surprised all the time by life, especially with what it throws at me.

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“I am open to new ideas and skills such as the time I learnt to walk a tight rope. I am keen to learn new physical skills such as when I did Strictly Come Dancing.

"But what I am finding I am learning about is the ageing process as different things matter to me now. I am rather introvert, quiet and spiritual and this reflects in the type of music I listen to and sing.”

You can find out more about Lesley Garrett when she appears at the McMillan Theatre in Bridgwater on Sunday, July 16, at 7.30pm.

She will be in town for An Audience with Lesley Garrett which will be ongoing 110th anniversary celebrations of Bridgwater Operatic Society.

Lesley has had an extensive music career.

From 1984, as principal soprano at English National Opera, she became well known for her performances in productions of the operas Serse, Le Nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte and Die Fledermaus.

She played the lead role of Hanna Glawari in the Welsh National Opera’s production of The Merry Widow, which toured the United Kingdom in 2005.

In 2006 she sang the role of Mother Abbess in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival of The Sound of Music. In 2008, she joined the cast of Carousel as Nettie Fowler.

Music for Lesley has been a constant factor in her life from a very young age when she sang with her family around the piano.

As she explained, the music she listened to was the music the family made.

Her mum was in a choral society and she said her dad had a singing voice to rival Pavarotti.

Speaking about how her love of music grew, Lesley said: “I think the special thing about being a singer as opposed to a actor or circus performer is it gives you an additional dimension knowing when I take it a breath of air it is going to be transformed it a beautiful way.

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"It gives you an emotional lift and lets your voice soar above the every day problems. I think music helps save us all.

“Singing opera demands so much from you, it is physical and I love the challenges it sets me every time.

"It gives you more depth and it is something which is accessible to all.

“When I heard Elizabeth Harwood at the Coliseum in London, I knew that was what I wanted to do and, ten years later, I was with the English National Opera.”

Lesley explained she was ‘driven’ in her bid to be an opera singer and knows if she could meet her younger self to give her advice she said the younger Lesley would not listen.

She said: “I would try and tell my younger self to trust your instincts and empathy.

“By and large, I did not trust my instincts as I only trusted something I had learnt or felt.

“I have two sets of genes in me.

One from my grandfather, who had Albert Garrett’s Black Out Band, and my mother’s father, who gave concerts and played in an orchestra and loved classical music.

"He taught me to play the piano. Neither of these styles of music in me can be denied.”

She is now looking forward to doing the show in Bridgwater.

These are shows Lesley enjoys as she gets to sing the songs she enjoys, the audience select the songs they want sung and there is a question and answer session.

Lesley likes to reminisce about the past but it is a place she likes to visit but she doesn’t want to live there.

-Tickets for An Audience with Lesley Garrett cost £25. Buy from the Box Office: 01278 662181 and online at bridgwateros.co.uk