On the eve of her Decca solo album debut, the gifted Russian soprano talks Kiri, competitions and coloratura.

Widely praised for her purity of tone and flawless technique, Julia Lezhneva began to attract international attention at the age of 18, when she performed with Juan Diego Flórez at the opening of the 2008 Rossini Opera Festival. She made her recording debut soon after in Bach’s B Minor Masswith Marc Minkowski. Her performance as Caio in Vivaldi’s Ottone in Villa, with Il Giardino Armonico, won critical acclaim as did her debut at the 2010 Salzburg Festival. Her first solo album of Rossini arias topped the French classical charts and won a Diapaison d’Or Award.

Lezhneva’s career skyrocketed, however, following her brief appearance at the 2010 Classical BRIT Awards in London. She was there at the invitation of her “mentor”, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. I ask her how that came about? “I was a student in Cardiff for two years”, she says. “She was one of the teachers that came for about a week every year to teach ─ that’s how we met. The second year she came I was in the masterclass and she especially liked what I was...

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