English contralto Susan Moore: featured performer of the 2017 Halifax Summer Opera Festival

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Mrs Herring in Britten’s Albert Herring

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“New opera, which is currently mostly written for young people in the U.K. to attend as part of their education or to perform, must move to the main stage alongside classic works. This is the future of opera.”

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Where are you from? How did you first get interested in opera or musical theatre? 

I was lucky enough to be taken to the theatre from a very young age. My family have very eclectic taste in music but I particularly loved classic musicals as a child with Judy Garland, Julie Andrews and Doris Day as well as live ballet, pantomime, operetta, music theatre and opera. My family have been incredibly supportive of my singing career.

When did you start studying voice? Where are you studying now?

I joined a choir at the age of six. Started singing lessons at fourteen and went to Music College for an undergrad and postgraduate, starting when I was eighteen (Trinity College of Music, London). I attended Abingdon Summer School and Morley Opera Course in the U.K. I also completed a masters specialising in Arts Education at Birkbeck College, London. I currently study singing privately with Susan McCulloch.

What came first for you, theatre or music?

Music first, then theatre. I loved singing but discovered a flair for comedy later and never turned back.

What are your dream roles?

Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd – so evil but so funny! Mrs Peachum in Threepenny Opera – so complex and twisted I’d love to revisit lots of roles too – Marcellina, Suzuki, Filipyevna, Lady Jane, Katisha, Buttercup, Third Lady…

 What arias, songs or entire roles belonging to other voice types would you like to perform?

Lensky in Eugene Onegin – just to explore his character, sing his amazing aria and question his motivation and loyalties. Scarpia in Tosca – to be the ultimate baddie. Queen of the Night – Just the total opposite of what I do. Il Commendatore – What an ending!

Who are your favourite performing artists?

Judy Garland, Felicity Palmer, Doris Day, Maria Callas, Joanna Riding, Meow Meow, Imelda Staunton, Julia McKenzie, Julie Andrews, Alison Moyer…

What’s the most embarrassing song on your phone/tablet/streaming playlist?

More Than Words – Extreme. My excuse is that I saw them perform it live in the 1990s…

How should we as interpretive artists deal with works that are racist and/or sexist? What can be done to make opera relevant to the next generation?:

Colourblind casting is essential. Cast the best singer for the role rather than trying to make things realistic. The audience are alredy suspending their disbelief. Create the world and take them on a journey. Realism in terms of looks/ethnicity aren’t important if your storytelling is strong.

Updating can help to navigate some challenging moments but we must not try and rewrite the past. These are period pieces and, when set in the past, we mustn’t superimpose new thinking onto the characters. It is better to help a modern audience to reinterpret them or challenge them.

New opera, which is currently mostly written for young people in the U.K. to attend as part of their education or perform, must move to the main stage alongside classic works. This is the future of opera.

What are you most looking forward to about this summer?

Meeting new people, working on this great piece and performing for a Canadian audience!

Thanks, Susan, and welcome to Canada!

Are you a participant or staff member this year? Why not submit your own answers to our questionnaire!

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