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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders