Even though Lorna Haywood is retired from singing, she doesn't spend her time puttering about the garden or reminiscing about a career that has taken her to the major opera houses throughout the world. She's much too busy for any of that.
Right now, Haywood is happily pursuing a new career in opera, one that puts her on the other side of the orchestra pit. For the past five years, the British singer has been working both sides of the Atlantic as a sought-after stage director. But when you talk to her about it, Haywood is quick to point out that this is more than a second career. "I like to think of it as my third career, actually," Haywood said during a telephone interview from Eugene, Ore., where she is directing a production of Puccini's "Tosca" for Eugene Opera.
"I was a singer for 35 years," she explained, "then I was invited by the University of Michigan to teach there, but I retired early from the university because the opportunity to direct presented itself.
"And I haven't looked back since."
Haywood will be at the University of Utah this week, where she'll be directing an opera workshop using scenes from various operas. The scenes will be performed Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17, in the department of music. "Actually, I'm continuing my work at the University of Utah. I was there earlier for five weeks, and I'm just coming back and picking up the pieces, as it were."
Haywood is, in fact, a familiar face in the music department at the U. Off and on for many years, she has taught almost as much here as she has at Michigan, and she admits that she loves working with students. "It's a lot of fun doing workshops. It's exciting helping students develop their skills."
In her workshops, Haywood coaches students to help them hone their improvisational abilities and deliver credible performances. "I always say that a singer is only as good as his or her imagination."
Haywood bemoans the fact that television and videos have deprived youngsters of the ability to use their imaginations. "In England, I grew up in the radio days I think my family was the last in England to get a television set. And we had to imagine everything. TV is the thing today, to the detriment of a child's development. That's why I emphasize reading so much it develops your imagination."
Having been an opera singer helps Haywood in her new profession. "Some singers have a very natural flair for the stage, and others have to work at it. That's where directors come in to help a singer develop his or her character. And having been a singer, I understand all the problems singers can face, and that's helpful to them."
Haywood said she made a deliberate choice to give up singing and that it wasn't a difficult decision to make. "I always wanted to quit while I was ahead."
The 1990s saw her at her pinnacle. She won a Grammy for her recording of Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" with Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony, and a few years later, her CD of music by Paul Paray, with the Scottish National Orchestra, was nominated for another Grammy.
The step from singer to director isn't a big one, Haywood said, especially since she's always wanted to direct. "The directing bug has always been there." She still teaches, but only privately, and she's actively involved in young artists programs in Florida and at Glimmerglass.