Followers of the English operatic scene have known the name and singing of Lynne Dawson since the 1980s. Her renown became nearly universal in 1997 when she performed at the funeral of Britain's Princess Diana, and since then she has projected the star quality necessary to propel her career forward.
Her home was the rich farming country of Yorkshire in Northern England, where she was born in 1958 in a hospital next to the historic York Minster cathedral. She grew up on a farm in the Vale of York, and although she sang as a girl, she was much better known for sports. She won a place on the team representing the city of York in hockey and squash.
Dawson had a special aptitude for languages and studied French, German, Italian, German, Italian, and Russian as a university student. She sang only as a hobby, but was picked to sing the lead in school opera productions. After graduation she worked for the firm of Rowntrees in York (now a division of Nestlé) as an interpreter and translator. She also joined the Chapter House chorus at York Minster, and soon was singing most of the solo parts. Chorus master and composer/conductor Andrew Carter noticed her abilities and encouraged Dawson to consider a singing career.
She left York for London and enrolled in the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, one of Britain's most prominent conservatories. Confirmation that she had made the right choice came when the Deller Consort, a leading professional early music vocal ensemble, invited her to join while she was still in her first year. Thus, for a mainstream opera figure, her singing career developed in an unusual direction. She began in early music as a member of the Hilliard Ensemble, working with such leaders of the period-instruments movement as Roger Norrington, John Eliot Gardiner, and Trevor Pinnock in concert before broadening into the standard international opera repertory.
Dawson's operatic debut was in the starring role of the Governess in Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw in 1982. She first sang in Vienna in 1983, at the 1988 Salzburg Festival, at La Scala in 1990, and the Berlin Staatsoper in 1991.
She sings a lyric soprano repertory. The operas in which she has appeared include Monteverdi's Orfeo, Handel's Cleopatra e Cesare, and Ariodante, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Gluck's Iphigénie in Aulide and Orfeo et Eurydice; she is well known for the Mozart parts of Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), the Countess (Marriage of Figaro), Constanze (Entführung aus dem Serail), Pamina (The Magic Flute), Elettra (Idomeneo), and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni); she has sung Norina in Don Pasquale, and Amenaide in Rossini's Tancredi. She took a leading role in American composer Elliott Carter's opera What Next? at the Berlin Staatsoper.
Dawson is an active concert and recital singer, with a solid reputation in the Handel oratorios: Saul, Alexander Balus, Jephtha, Hercules. She sings the Bach B minor Mass, Mozart's C major Mass and Requiem, Beethoven's Ninth. Further afield, she has also performed Mahler's Second, Brahms' Requiem, Ravel's Shéhérazade, Britten's Les illuminations, and songs of Othmar Schoeck.
She has appeared on the major concert, festival, and operatic stages of Europe (including multiple appearances in the popular BBC Henry Woods Proms concerts) and at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. In 1997 she was asked to sing at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, a ceremony telecast to an audience of billions; she performed part of the Libera Me from Verdi's Requiem.
Dawson appears on over 60 compact disc releases, including four of the highly acclaimed complete Schubert song series on Hyperion and the award-winning San Francisco Symphony recording of Orff's Carmina Burana under conductor Herbert Blomstedt. She lives in England with her husband, Simon Jones.