Holden is the daughter of Sir Brian Warren and Dame Josephine Barnes, DBE. She was educated as Benenden School, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford (where she gained a Master of Arts), Guildhall School of Music and Drama and American University, Washington (MA). She also has degrees from the Royal Academy of Music (ARCM and LRAM).
She translated the libretto of Don Giovanni for Jonathan Miller in 1985. Her librettos include Bliss, for Brett Dean and The Silver Tassie, for which she was joint winner, with composer Mark-Anthony Turnage, of the Outstanding Achievement in Opera Laurence Olivier Award in 2001. She made a "highly acclaimed translation" of Puccini's Madama Butterfly for David Freeman's production at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011. Holden prepared the "deft" narration for a concert performance of the opera Der Freischütz presented by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre, London, in April 2012.
Holden's publications include contributions to The Mozart Compendium in 1990, the New Penguin Opera Guide in 2001 and the Penguin Concise Guide to Opera in 2005. James Oestreich, writing in The New York Times, described the New Penguin Opera Guide as a "valuable source" and "most impressive", though he would have liked the index to cover performers, places and events – rather than just the composers and librettists.
Many of her opera translations are commissioned by the English National Opera. The Age compared Holden's partnership with composer Brett Dean in "long-distance collaboration" to "the great composer-librettist partnerships" of "Mozart and da Ponte, or Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal" who "did not have email or jet planes". Critic Bernard Holland, writing in The New York Times about H. K. Gruber's Gloria: A Pigtale, thought it heavy-handed but "rescued by Amanda Holden's clever English version".
- Amanda Holden. (Editor) The Penguin Concise Guide to Opera. Penguin, reprinted 2005.
- Amanda Holden. (Editor) The New Penguin Opera Guide. Penguin 2001. (Reprinted in paperback 2003)
- Amanda Holden. (Editor) The Penguin Opera Guide. Penguin 1995. (Reprinted in paperback 1997)
- Amanda Holden, Nicholas Kenyon and Stephen Walsh. (Editors) The Viking Opera Guide. (with CD-ROM) 1993.
- Who's Who (UK) 2012
- "Amanda Holden – Opera Australia". opera-australia.org.au.
- "About the Hall". Royal Albert Hall. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- Shirley, Hugo (20 April 2012). "Der Freischütz, LSO, Barbican". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Oestreich, James R. (1 September 2002). "High Notes: Covering Opera, if not its world". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- "Penguin Books". Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- Shmith, Michael (11 May 2009). "Opera as bliss and hell". The Age. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- Holland, Bernard (29 July 2002). "Critic's Notebook; Mining Music in Breathtaking Mountains". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
- "Opera Librettist Amanda Holden". Deutsche Welle. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2012.