The John and Nell Moody (née Burra) Collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes personal and working papers of John and Nell Moody. It contains files from John Moody's time as Director of Productions at the Welsh National Opera Company (1959-1969). The opera production files containing his annotated papers are of particular interest. There are scores, choir formations, lighting plots and correspondence.

The files also include translations of various operas by John and Nell. Opera scores and books owned by the Moodys are grouped in a separate sub-collection.

The collection contains personal papers, diaries and photographs belonging to John Moody and his wife Nell Moody, née Burra. These include several sequences of letters written by Nell to John. It also encompasses some of Dr Richard Thompson's research papers on the Moodys.

The collection includes personal papers and diaries belonging to the actress Phillada Sewell who was a cousin to John Moody. There are newspaper cuttings about the Moodys and Sewell.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Percivale Moody (1906-1993) was an opera and theatre producer, actor and translator. His parents were Percivale Moody and Marian Ley. Nell Moody, née Burra, (1909-1999) worked as a singing teacher, opera singer and translator of opera. John Moody was educated at Bromsgrove School. After working at a publishing company for two years, he left to become a painter. Painting did not bring in much income and in 1930 Moody won a scholarship to the Webber-Douglas School of Singing. It was here that he met the opera singer Helen 'Nella' Burra.

Moody was also an accomplished actor and made his debut at the Lyric, Hammersmith in 'Derby Day' in 1931. He played at the Old Vic for two seasons in 1934 and 1937. During much of the 1930s Nell Burra was in Germany training to be an opera singer. Alma Schadow tutored her in Berlin. Burra and Moody married in 1937 shortly after the death of her twin brother Peter Burra (1909-1937).

Early in 1940 Moody became Principal of the Old Vic Theatre School where he stayed until 1942, when he was appointed as producer to the Old Vic Company in Liverpool. The Carl Rosa Opera Company approached him to produce 'La Tosca' in 1945. This was the start of Moody's career in opera. In 1949 he became drama director of the Arts Council and was subsequently the director of Bristol Old Vic.

Bill Smith of Welsh National Opera approached Moody in 1959 about the post of Director of Productions. Moody was appointed. Subsequently he and Nell translated 'May Night' by Rimsky-Korsakov to create a new English libretto. In the following years the two collaborated to produced new English translations of libretti which included 'Prince Igor' and 'The Pearl Fishers'. Moody resigned from the WNO in 1969 to concentrate on his painting.

Phillada Sewell (1910-1998) was born in Bushey, Hertfordshire. She was a character actress and soprano who first broadcast on radio in 1937. She appeared in 'A Room with a View' (1985) and Maurice (1987). Her mother, Margaret Ley, was a younger sister of John Moody's mother, Louisa. Thus making John Moody and Phillada Sewell cousins.

Conditions Governing Access

Access the collection is restricted under the Data Protection Act. You will need to complete a restricted access form and return it to Special Collections for review by staff before access can be granted.

Material in this collection is in copyright. Photocopies or digital images can only be supplied by the Library for research or private study within the terms of copyright legislation. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain the copyright holder's permission to reproduce for any other purpose. Guidance is available on tracing copyright status and ownership.