|Year of Birth:||1944|
Palmer was born in Cheltenham and educated at Erith Grammar School, now named Erith School. She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and under Marianne Schech's guidance at the Munich College for Music and Theatre. In April 1970, she won first prize in the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship. She made her operatic debut in 1971 as Dido in Dido and Aeneas with the Kent Opera. In 1973, she made her US debut with the Houston Grand Opera and her Metropolitan Opera debut was in 2000 as Waltraute (Götterdämmerung). Having made her debut with English National Opera (ENO) in 1975, her performance with the company forty years later, as the Countess in The Queen of Spades, was widely applauded and described as 'mesmerising' and 'astonishing'.
Palmer has performed and recorded Gilbert and Sullivan operas, as Katisha in The Mikado for the ENO and the Welsh National Opera (WNO), Dame Carruthers in The Yeomen of the Guard (WNO) and Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore (WNO). In 1998, she played Widow Begbick in the Lyric Opera of Chicago production of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. In 2003, she performed the role of Mrs Lovett in Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd at the Royal Opera House (the only musical the ROH has ever presented). She sang Venus in a 1983 BBC television broadcast of Orphée aux Enfers conducted by Alexander Faris.