ATLANTA -- Three weeks ago in London, The Guardian newspaper said of Armuchee, Ga., native Jamie Barton, a luminous mezzo-soprano, "she is a great artist no question, with a great imperturbable steadiness of tone and nobility of utterance, her performance marked her as one of the great Brahms interpreters of our times."

Not bad for the daughter of an auto mechanic, a girl who attended Shorter College. This is an astonishing life in progress.

But Barton disagrees. "No, I'm pretty normal as far as I know," she said with a hearty laugh.

Normal? With one of the world's great opera voices? No way.

"Really I didn't start singing classically at all, I didn't start listening to opera until I was 19, maybe 20," she said.

Now at 30, Barton is like Halley's Comet, lighting up the sky with her performance at the BBC's Cardiff Singer of the World competition in Wales.

"It is the Olympics of opera singing. It happens every other year, All of the other countries send people to compete, and then the BBC whittles down the list to 20. It's taken me time since the competition to even start processing what these two wins mean," Barton said.

Tuesday afternoon, Jeff Hullinger spoke with her on the campus of Emory University at the Schwarz Center for Performing Arts.

Barton said she always sang in an Amurchee church and her family loved bluegrass music.

"My family loved listening and picking and grinning," she said.

It is hard to hear in this magnificent voice any trappings of northwest Georgia and sweet tea in her dialect.

"I think over the years, I've just naturally gone to a transatlantic kind of sound," she said. "That being said, get me around my Nanner and family and it all comes back."

Barton is mentored by the legendary Marilyn Horne.

The BBC Cardiff Singer of the World victories have changed her life.

"This has opened an extraordinary number of doors for me. I am one lucky girl in that way," she said.

Barton recently married an IT professional and lives in Roswell, but will spend three-quarters of the year on the road -- one of Georgia's great exports to the world.

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