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Jones was born in Pontnewynydd, Wales. Before becoming a professional singer, she worked as a secretary at the Pontypool foundry. She studied music at the Royal College of Music, London, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana (Siena) as well as the International Opera Studio (ZÃ¼rich). After making her professional debut in 1962 as a mezzo-soprano in Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, she was engaged by the Zurich Opera House. She discovered that her easy top range could enable her to sing soprano roles and she switched to the soprano repertoire from around 1964, her first major soprano role being Amelia in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.
Jones came to prominence in 1964 when she stood in for Leontyne Price as Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Her career then developed rapidly, and she met with success as AÃ¯da, Leonore (in Fidelio), Desdemona (in Otello), Elisabeth (in Don Carlos), Donna Anna (in Don Giovanni), Cio-cio-san (in Madama Butterfly), Lady Macbeth (in Verdi's Macbeth), Santuzza (in Cavalleria rusticana), Octavian (in Der Rosenkavalier), MÃ©dÃ©e (in the Italian version) and Tosca.
From these, she gradually proceeded to heavier roles such as Chrysothemis (in Elektra), Salome, the Marschallin (in Der Rosenkavalier), Eva (in Die Meistersinger von NÃ¼rnberg), Senta (in Der fliegende HollÃ¤nder), Kundry (in Parsifal), both Venus and Elisabeth (in TannhÃ¤user), Helena (in Strauss's Die Ã¤gyptische Helena), Ariadne (in Ariadne auf Naxos) and Sieglinde, as well as BrÃ¼nnhilde (in Die WalkÃ¼re). She has appeared frequently at almost every major opera house in the world, including the Vienna State Opera, the Zurich Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the San Francisco Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Paris OpÃ©ra, the Teatro alla Scala, the Los Angeles Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the Grand ThÃ©Ã¢tre de GenÃ¨ve, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as well as many prominent opera and music festivals.