Comely in appearance and with an attractive voice, mezzo soprano Jean Rigby has forged an important career in music ranging from works of the Baroque period to contemporary British scores. With a musical keenness admired by many important conductors, Rigby has been a leading choice of artist for both live performance and in the recording studio.
Rigby trained at the Royal Birmingham School of Music before entering London's Royal Academy of Music. At the RAM, she studied with soprano Patricia Clark and continued to work with her teacher following graduation. Not long thereafter, she came to the attention of both English opera houses and began a series of engagements that included such roles as Carmen, Octavian, Rosina, Britten's Lucretia and Hypolyta, Verdi's Maddalena, and Monteverdi's Penelope at the English National Opera and Nicklausse and Antonia's Mother at Covent Garden. At the Garsington Festival, Rigby won positive reviews for her Cenerentola; at the Glyndebourne Festival, she has sung Irene in Handel's Theodora and Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande. At the Seattle Opera, she made her 1997 debut as Charlotte in Werther.
On the concert stage, Rigby has been equally busy. In addition to appearing with Britain's leading orchestras and ensembles, she made her debut in Vienna in 1994 as alto soloist in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner. Her first appearances at the Salzburg Festival took place with conductor Trevor Pinnock. In England, she has been especially well-received in her many appearances at the BBC Promenade Concerts where, among other music, she has sung Mahler with both Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Andrew Davis. With the London Sinfonietta, she sang in Jonathan Cole's Assassin Hair and won praise for her rare eloquence.
Among her recordings, Rigby's Lucretia in Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia was highly regarded even while faced with such competition on disc as Janet Baker and, on a live recording, the role's creator, Kathleen Ferrier. With Sir Neville Marriner, she recorded J.S. Bach's Magnificat; with Sir Andrew Davis, she committed to disc Elgar's music for alto and orchestra, while Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde was recorded with conductor Mark Wigglesworth. A recording of James MacMillan's Raising Sparks drew admiring reviews for Rigby's atmospheric singing.