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Denise Leigh

Soprano singer Denise Leigh’s dreams became reality when she was only 16, and plucked by a talent scout from a school production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat - a move that saw her awarded a three year sponsorship for musical tuition from Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Trust.

Born in Audley, Denise suffered from birth with a condition which resulted in blindness, but  overcame this huge obstacle to forge a successful singing career.

She was awarded a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study for a degree in Opera, but as she was due to start the course she become pregnant with her first child Becky.

Denise was determined that being a mother would not stop her from developing as a singer, and so, after a short break, she returned to her studying with support from the Rotary Club.

In 2001, at a friend’s suggestion, Denise applied for the English National Opera  Channel 4 reality TV programme Operatunity, which was searching to find for a new young opera star. “I didn’t want to enter the competition,” said Denise: “I thought it would be very elitist, I thought I was too old and that I had the wrong background, but he nagged and nagged at me and thank goodness he did.”

Winning Operatunity has since made Denise a household name and brought many exciting opportunities with it.

She has taken on lead soprano roles including  the 2003 English National Opera’s (ENO) special performance of Verdi’s Opera Rigoletto at the Coliseum, London’s largest theatre, which won the Prix Italia 2003.This recognition led to an appearance as Gilda Rigoletto and has since returned to ENO for Orlando Gough’s For the Public Good. Other stage work has included Russell Barr’s play The Super Naughty XXXmas Story at Wilton’s Music Hall.

Her manager James Black said: “Denise Leigh’s winning of Channel 4’s Operatunity competition introduced the wider public to a soprano of tremendous natural ability allied to a refined vocal technique and an ebullient personality. I am delighted that she is receiving this honour.”

Denise often performs barefoot to feel vibrations through the stage to help compensate for the lack of vision.

She is actively involved with numerous charities including the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) where she is an Honorary Ambassador and the Douglas Macmillan Hospice in North Staffordshire where she is a former patron while also being the Cultural Ambassador for the successful 2012 London Olympics.

Photo of Denise Leigh

Denise Leigh was bestowed the award in 2008