Mezzo Diana Moore tells Christopher Morley how she came to be performing in Stockholm.
From working for Birmingham Arts Marketing to singing an important Handel operatic role in Stockholm’s wonderfully preserved Drottningholm Court Theatre might seem a huge career leap, but mezzo-soprano Diana Moore explains how it came about.
Born In Lowestoft (“Benjamin Britten country,” as she explains), she began to display musical talent from the age of five, playing piano voraciously, and later clarinet and viola in various youth orchestras.
But it was joining the Suffolk Jubilee Choir, the county youth choir, that awakened her to the joys of singing.
“I loved my instrumental studies,” she says. “But I always enjoyed the ensemble elements most, rather than feeling any solo aspirations.
“But with singing, I felt a completely different response – I wanted to be heard!
“I had some solo opportunities within the choir, and my music teacher advised singing lessons. I spent many afternoons around the piano, sight-reading through volumes of vocal music.”
Diana chose an initially academic approach to the pursuit of a singing career, studying for her music degree at the University of Birmingham between 1989 and 1993 (perhaps she was subconsciously aware of the great Handel opera tradition at the Barber Institute).
“When I arrived I was offered a choral scholarship at St Alban’s Church, Highgate, and I also sang with the Birmingham University Liturgical Choir, both of which opened my eyes and ears to a world of music that I hadn’t really come across before.
“I had a large number of solo opportunities during my time there and it really established my desire to sing.
“It was also a very exciting time to be in Birmingham itself, as Symphony Hall had just opened, and Sir Simon Rattle was making huge waves with the CBSO, and I made the most of it all!”
I asked Diana if she had any other memories of Birmingham.
“Many! When I left university, I decided that I wanted to pursue my singing training, but I would need to fund that myself for private teaching, so I stayed around in Birmingham for the next two years, working for Birmingham Arts Marketing and also singing as a professional with Ex Cathedra.
“My job gave me an insight into how the arts work, and what is involved behind the scenes.
“I was involved in the What’s on Where magazine and also in the YES scheme that was running for young people.
“I had a great time seeing lots of concerts and arts events which broadened my perspective. I also had the chance to do lots of singing with Ex Cathedra, which gave me a huge amount of performance experience.”
How did Diana come to sing with Ex Cathedra?
“I was persuaded to audition for Ex Cathedra during my final year at Birmingham. One of my student friends already sang with them, but I was very nervous that I wouldn’t make the grade.
“It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made as I spent seven years singing with the group and still have friends from those times.
“It opened my eyes to the world of Baroque and Renaissance performance and was inspirational in so many ways.
“I sang with them again last year for their anniversary concerts, and it was great to see so many of the faces I knew from my time in Birmingham but also to see how rightfully successful they’ve become. It was a unique and valuable training!”
But it’s a big step from Birmingham, and from Hertfordshire, where Diana lives, to singing with the International Handel-Festpiele at Gottingen in Germany, whose production of Handel’s Orlando was guesting in Drottningholm last weekend. How did this connection come about?
“I sang to Nicholas McGegan (artistic director of Gottingen’s Handel Festival) in 2002, and did some concert performances with him. Then in early 2004, my agent called to say that the singer for Gottingen’s production of Handel’s Rinaldo had pulled out, and would I be interested in stepping in?
“I had four weeks to learn it, and I’d never sung a title role before, but I felt that if Nic felt I could do it, I should give it a go!
“It was one of the most intense learning curves of my life, and exhausting, but it was also one of the turning points for me and I had a ball!
“Following this, they asked me back to sing Sesto in Giulio Cesare in 2007, Medoro in Orlando last year and I performed three concerts there this year, including a solo recital with fortepianist Steven Devine.
“The festival has a wonderful atmosphere, like a big family, and Nic has the knack of being able to pick out people who have the same approach to music making, which makes it a very special experience. It’s a highlight of my musical calendar.”
Catherine Turocy, director and choreographer of this Orlando production, tells me during one of last Saturday’s intervals how the cast has developed between the 2008 presentation and this year’s Drottningholm revival.
“It’s been amazing to bring them together again after last year, and to see how they’ve grown in their personalities – and we’ve made a few costume changes too, to bring out the characters more. And next year everyone gets together again for a concert performance in San Francisco.”
Diana Moore herself is thrilled to be revisiting the production.
“To me it’s a gift, as Orlando is such a complex work that to be able to revisit it again gives so much opportunity to explore it further. And the fact that it’s the same cast means that we can do that as a group rather than having to start afresh.
“Drottningholm of course added a new flavour, and it’s been a dream to sing here. To be able to transport what was already a baroque-styled performance into an original baroque theatre has been incredible for all of us and I don’t think any of us will ever forget it.”
And Diana Moore’s future plans take in song recitals, including the Oxford Lieder Festival in October, and the English Song Weekend in Ludlow next June.
And she is passionate about English song.
“Yes! I love English song and feel very strongly that it isn’t appreciated or represented enough. Although many people feel that English is a difficult language to sing in (and it certainly presents more challenges than, for example, Italian), the poetry and language available gives special colours and textures that seem to suit my way of singing.
“I try to include as much English music as possible in my recital programmes and often find that audiences react very strongly to the music but are not familiar with it. There’s a real wealth of repertoire available that is not as well-known but well worth looking at.”