Lesley’s operatic career included early engagements at the Wexford Festival, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, and Glyndebourne Festival Opera before joining English National Opera in 1984. During her time with ENO, Lesley starred in many productions and won critical acclaim for her portrayals of both comic and serious roles. Lesley made her Royal Opera debut in their production of The Merry Widow in 1997. She returned to the Coliseum in the spring of 2001 for a revival of her acclaimed Rosina in Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’, having first performed the role there in 1998.
Internationally Lesley has performed throughout Europe, the USA, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
For Millennium Eve, Lesley sang opera and pop classics with Bryan Ferry, The Eurythmics and Mick Hucknall in the grounds of the Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum in Greenwich to celebrate the arrival of the new century.
In 2000 her autobiography 'Notes from a Small Soprano' was published by Hodder and Stoughton and during that year she appeared at the first-ever ‘Classical Brit Awards’, a gala fundraising concert and musical celebration for Dame Elizabeth Taylor and performed the very last Abide With Me at the 2000 FA Cup Final (prior to the closure of Wembley Stadium) in aid of the NSPCC. In 2003, Lesley joined the radio station, Classic FM as a weekly presenter with her own show on Saturday evenings.
In January 2004, Lesley took part in the inauguration ceremony for Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 before travelling to Australia for concerts at the renowned Leeuwin Winery with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and guest artist, Anthony Warlow. The concerts were such a success that she returned to Australia in 2005 for a concert tour with Anthony. Also in 2004 Lesley was invited to be one of the celebrity dancers on the BBC’s hit show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, together with her professional dance partner, Anton Du Beke, she reached the semi-finals of the competition. In the autumn she sang the role of The Fox in Rachel Portman’s new opera, ‘The Little Prince’, which was filmed for BBC2, and took part in BBC1’s series ‘Who Do You Think You Are? In February 2005 Lesley was invited to be one of the judges of the BBC’s ‘Comic Relief Does Fame Academy’ and in May she both sang at and hosted the 2005 ‘Classical Brit Awards’, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. In the autumn Lesley took the title role in Welsh National Opera’s new production of The Merry Widow which toured the UK. In spring 2006 Lesley joined ITV’s hit show ‘Loose Women’ as a regular weekly guest and in the autumn she joins the cast of The Sound of Music as the Mother Abbess in a new production at the Palladium.
In 2007, Lesley returned as a judge to ‘Comic Relief Does Fame Academy’ and continued in The Sound of Music before touring the UK with her own gala concerts. In the autumn she presented a new series for BBC1 ‘Christmas Voices‘ which is planned for a return to the BBC in autumn 2008 when Lesley will be joining a new production of ‘Carousel‘ in the West End in the role of Nettie.
Lesley was awarded a CBE in the 2002 New Year's Honours List for Services to Music.