Obituary: John Moody

John Percivale Moody, opera and theatre producer, actor and translator: born 6 April 1906; producer, Sadler's Wells Opera Co 1945-49; Drama Director, Arts Council of Great Britain 1949-54; Director, Bristol Old Vic Co 1954-59; Director of Productions, Welsh National Opera 1960, Joint Artistic Director, 1970; OBE 1961; married 1937 Helen Burra (one son deceased); died Bristol 14 April 1993.

IT WAS John Moody's production of Verdi's Nabucco in 1952 which established the reputation of the fledgling Welsh National Opera. Until then most music critics had considered them just enthusiastic amateurs, while the Arts Council put them on a par with the Cardiff Organ Club or the Banbury Co-op Choir. Nabucco, with its theme of national oppression and long choral scenes, suited the Welsh admirably and became their calling card for many years.

It was Moody's idea to stage the piece. Shortly after being appointed Drama Director at the Arts Council in 1949, he was on holiday in Switzerland with his wife Nell, saw a production and knew immediately it had to be done in Britain. He recommended it to WNO's Chairman, Bill Smith, who managed to persuade the Arts Council to release him part-time to produce it. While the principals rehearsed in London, Moody travelled to Wales once a fortnight to rehearse the chorus. The entire production, the first to be staged in-house, was put on for under pounds 1,500 and Moody's greatest triumph was in getting the amateur chorus to act effectively.

Moody himself trained as an actor and singer, winning an open scholarship to the Webber-Douglas Academy. He made his debut in Derby Day at the Lyric, Hammersmith, in 1931, appeared in Old Vic seasons with Charles Laughton, worked with Laurence Olivier and took the leads in plays by TS Eliot and Auden and Isherwood for the Group Theatre which he helped found. He worked as a director at the Old Vic School, the Liverpool Old Vic, Birmingham Rep, for the Carl Rosa Opera Company and then at Sadler's Wells where he was resident producer for five years, staging the first British production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra.

In 1949, after joining the Arts Council, he had to visit a production of Ibsen's Ghosts at the Grand Theatre, Swansea. The same night WNO were playing The Bartered Bride at the Empire and the young director of the Welsh Arts Council, Huw Wheldon, a passionate advocate for WNO, insisted he see the company in action. Moody watched Act 1 of The Bartered Bride, was driven by Wheldon at breakneck speed to the Grand for Act 2 of Ghosts, then back to the Empire for Act 3 of the opera. He was hooked. Bill Smith, keen to progress towards a fully professional company, tried to get him to direct a production but his work at the Arts Council precluded it; until Nabucco.

His next production for WNO, seven years later, was another rarity, Rimsky-Korsakov's May Night. By then Moody was ending a spell as Director of the Bristol Old Vic. He and his wife had suffered personal tragedy when their only son was killed in a boating accident and it was partly to use work to counteract his grief that Moody accepted Smith's invitation to become WNO's Director of Productions, a post he held for nine years. Among his most memorable productions were the first staging in Britain this century of Verdi's La Battaglia di Legano, Rossini's William Tell, the premiere of Grace Williams's The Parlour, Macbeth, and a Boris Godunov considered at the time to be the finest ever seen in Britain.

By 1969, WNO had became fully professional. Moody, thought by some to be too associated with the amateurs, sensed what was coming and resigned rather than waiting to be pushed. His expertise was not lost to the company, however, for he became Counsellor to the Board.

Moody was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was not only a producer but (together with Nell) a translator, publisher and painter (he taught at Wimbledon Art School). A quietly generous person, he always put others before himself. For a performance of The Seraglio on tour, when the soprano Elizabeth Vaughan broke a bone in her foot and no replacement could be found, Moody donned costume and went on as a deaf mute to push her around in a wheelchair. During the Sixties many young singers were given their first opportunities by WNO, including Vaughan, Josephine Barstow, Thomas Allen, Margaret Price, Delme Bryn Jones, Donald Macintyre, Ryland Davies and Anne Howells. It was with Moody that such artists first learnt how to appear on stage and delve into character. Their success, and today's pre-eminence of WNO, are part of his legacy.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower