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Opera North star grateful for the community support in her home village near Haverhill

Yvonne Howard as Nettie Fowler in Opera North's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. Picture: Robert Workman.
Yvonne Howard as Nettie Fowler in Opera North's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. Picture: Robert Workman.

Mezzo soprano Yvonne Howard is currently in Leeds rehearsing for her role Opera North’s production of the hit Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel, which starts a four-city run of shows on May 13.

Yvonne has been in the job for 34 years since graduating from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester - but this week marks her 20th anniversary of moving from London to live in Shudy Camps, near Haverhill.

The 57-year-old has travelled the world in her work, and admits to sometimes being away for up to ten months of the year.

But for Yvonne, Shudy has a special place in her heart.

She said: “It was an escape from London. Wanting to have some space. Wanting to have a house rather than a flat and having a garden and having a community life really. Shudy offered us that.

“A couple of years ago I only spent six weeks in my own house. That’s where the community comes in because someone keeps an eye on it for me, just to know everything is safe - and the neighbours mow the lawn.

“The neighbours are excellent.”

Yvonne has to eat healthily and exercise to look after her body, and therefore her voice, which as she says, is ‘just a muscle, so if you don’t look after your body it wont work well.’

Her life could have taken a very different turn, but after weighing up whether to go into a career in nursing or singing, the latter finally won the day after she successfully auditioned for a role.

For some years she did a lot of oratorio and recitals, but opera has taken precedence for the past 15 years

The job can be gruelling, but it is one she loves and one which has offered many career highs, with one highlight standing out.

“One of them had to be singing the title role at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. That’s something you never think is going to happen, especially as a mezzo soprano.”

Yvonne has no plans to stop performing any time soon, although from September she will combine live shows with teaching at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

She said: “I’ve got things in for the next few years so hopefully I will be going on into my 60s.”

Yvonne will for once be closer to home when, as part of its tour, Carousel - in which she plays Nettie Fowler - has a three day run in Norwich from May 28-30, details at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.

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