In the early stages of her career, Taylor concentrated on recital, oratorio, and orchestral repertoire rather than opera; she has sung with most major Canadian orchestras. She made her orchestral debuts in Canada (1973), the USA (1979), and Europe (1980) singing Messiah with the TS, the National SO in Washington, DC, and with the RAI orchestra in Milan, Italy, which performance earned her a standing ovation. She made her Paris debut in 1986 performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with l'Orchestre national de France, and her London debut occurred in 1989 in Verdi's Requiem with the London SO.
Taylor has made a specialty of the music of Mahler, having performed his Kindertotenlieder Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Das Lied von der Erde, and the Rückert Lieder, and in all of his symphonies scored for voice (No. 2, 3, 4, and 8).
Taylor began singing opera in 1975 with the role of the Queen in Harry Somers' The Fool at the Stratford Festival. She sang Pauline in Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame at the NAC in 1976. She has subsequently sung with most Canadian opera companies, with US companies such as the Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Opera Theatre St Louis, and in 1985 she appeared in the title role in a concert version of Handel's Alessandro at Carnegie Hall. In 1979 she made her European staged opera debut in Spoleto, Italy in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtensk. In 1990 she performed Schoenberg's one-woman opera Erwartung at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam. Her repertoire of operatic roles also includes Queen Hippolyta (Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream), Waltraute (Die Walküre), Vitellia (La Clemenza di Tito) and the title role in Massenet's Herodiade.
Taylor is a mezzo soprano with a particularly powerful lower extension to her range which has prompted some reviewers to perceive her as a contralto. Her voice is rich and large, also allowing her to venture into some dramatic soprano repertoire. In order to avoid a vocal classification which might limit her choice of repertoire, she has not pursued a primarily operatic career but has concentrated on concert repertoire where wider vocal and linguistic range of expression is allowed. According to a Montreal review 'her voice is projected with ease throughout its range, with a particularly seductive top octave, dramatic lower notes, and the power of an Anderson in her middle range' (Montreal Gazette, 24 Mar 1986). She has been broadcast on CBC radio and TV. In 1980 she made New York her base while retaining her Canadian citizenship.
Professor Bernard Diamant, baritone, was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in October, 1912. His father, also Bernard Diamant (1872-1936), was a well-known opera conductor, and his mother, Marita Verna, was a well-known opera singer specializing in Wagner roles.
His father was very against him following any kind of musical career and, different from his school mates of the time, he received no musical education at all. However, such was his love of music that he taught himself piano at a very early age, learning from a book he found in his father’s library. He would accompany his mother when she rehearsed and thus learned not only a large repertoire but also how to accompany a singer–a skill which served him well when he began to teach.
He tells the story of when he was in elementary school and the teacher asked him to sing a song (knowing that he was the son of a famous conductor and singer)–a children’s song, or a folksong. To the embarrassment of the teacher he told her he didn’t know any children’s songs. The teacher could hardly believe her ears and, feeling that he had said something wrong, quickly added: “But I can sing you the whole of the Verdi Requiem.” (Quote from an interview with Martine van Os on Netherlands Radio 4 (Tros) )
Despite his father’s objections he began vocal studies in The Netherlands when he was 17 with the then 71-year-old Cornelia van Sante. Later he studied with Louis van Mulder, Max Kloos, Ton de Nijs and Maartje Offers. When he was 19 he went to Paris to study with Rose Heilbronner (who was a star at the Opéra Comique) and then with Charles Panzéra. His last teacher was Otillia Plaut in Berlin who, as he states in the radio interview mentioned above, helped him find the “core” of his voice–something he searched for over a long period of time. It was this search which drove him from teacher to teacher until, at last, he found someone who could help him find it.
He sang in The Netherlands and in many leading German opera houses (Frankfurt, Munich). During the second world war he had a permanent engagement at the opera in Carlsbad, in Czechoslovakia, where he not only sang but acted.
Shortly after the war ended Prof Diamant emigrated to Canada where, based in Montreal he gave many recitals and broadcasts for CBC Radio Canada with the pianist John Newmark and with the CBC Radio Orchestra which was mostly made up, at that time, of German and Austrian émigrés. The programmes were varied and included a series called “Anthology of the German Lied” and another series called “The Earth which Sings.”
He began to teach singing privately in Montreal (and later at the University of Toronto) and quickly established himself as one of Canada's foremost singing teachers. Among his notable pupils were Maureen Forrester, Gaylene Gabora, John Boyden, Joan Patteneude and Janet Stubbs.
He retired in 1985 and returned to Holland where he lived in Amsterdam in an elegant canal house on the Leidsegracht, filled with beautiful antique Dutch furniture, paintings and always masses of freshly cut flowers. He returned to Canada regularly to give master classes. He died, in Amsterdam, in August 1999.
© 1993 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on December 20, 1993. Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following May. This transcription was made in 2021, and posted on this website at that time.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.