Adele Leigh

Opera singer

Born: 15 June, 1928, in London

Died: 23 May, 2004, in Vienna, aged 75

ADELE Leigh was a bright soubrette soprano in the post-war years who often sang at Covent Garden. However, after she married the Austrian ambassador to London she very successfully went on to specialise in Viennese operetta. But Leigh also enjoyed the world of musicals and variety and was seen in the West End in seasons at the Palladium with Harry Secombe and Bruce Forsyth.

Adele Leigh was brought up in north London and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 1948, the fledgling Royal Opera offered her a contract and she made her debut in Rigoletto. In 1949, she sang Barbarina in Peter Brook’s new production of The Marriage of Figaro (and later took over as Susanna from Elizabeth Schwarzkopf) and was in the world premiere of Arthur Bliss’s The Olympians, again directed by Brook.

Leigh was an enchanting Sophie in a memorable revival of Der Rosencavalier under the fiery Erich Kleiber and sang Marzelline in Fidelio conducted by Rudolf Kempe. She also sang in the world premiere of Britten’s Gloriana composed for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953.

However, the temptation to run a musical career in tandem proved too tempting and Leigh often appeared with the dance-bands of the era: Gerardo, Victor Sylvester etc, and was often heard on the BBC Light Programme.

While singing at the Zurich Opera in 1955, she was introduced to operetta. Her voice suited the roles and her charm and good looks added an extra zest to the parts she undertook in the operas of Johann Strauss and Lehar. She became very popular at the Vienna Volksoper and a fine exponent of light operetta.

In 1967, she met and, within a fortnight, was married to Kurt Enderl, and she was his consort at the Austrian embassy, firstly in Hungary and then in London. It was a role Leigh fulfilled with an endearing style and panache.

In 1987, the impresario Cameron Macintosh offered her a role in his glamorous production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies on the London stage. Leigh played a "Viennese remnant" and one critic described her as "wondrous".

Her husband predeceased her and there were no children.

ALASDAIR STEVEN