Susan Daniel has taken on all that life can throw at her and emerged singing and dancing
After carrying out hundreds and hundreds of interviews for your local magazine, I thought I had seen and heard it all – until Susan Daniel came along. Within seconds of saying hello on the phone, Susan is singing to me down the phone, before launching enthusiastically into her love for Camden Passage, Annie’s vintage shop and Steve Hatt’s fishmongers. All before I have even asked a question.
Susan’s life and career has been one sensational rollercoaster, from the great (singing her operatic repertoire in every major Opera House in Europe) to the low (suffering three bouts of cancer). At times during the interview I am left speechless at her zest for life and wonder if what she’s been through has changed her outlook. ‘There aren’t many people who have been through that, to that extent, and managed to make the career I have made,’ she considers. ‘It’s important to relish your life. I’m grateful for it every day.’
This would be a very lengthy interview if I went through all of Susan’s singing success stories, which makes it all the stranger that I am actually talking to the Angel local (since 1976) about roses. It’s just over a decade ago that acclaimed rose breeder Robert Harkness named a rose after Susan, which now flowers at locations all over Europe. Towards the end of 2015, she held a special planting session at St Mary’s Gardens, with money from sales of the rose going to the Little Angel Theatre. ‘After coming back from Milan, where I performed at La Scala, which is the biggest and greatest venue, I realised how lucky we are to have five theatres here in Islington and the Little Angel is the tiniest one,’ she says, her enthusiasm clear down the phone. ‘I always say get kids into music and dance as soon as possible. Get music in their ears. The Little Angel doesn’t have government funding, so it needs all the help it can get. It’s the most wonderful asset to us and I am a big fan.’
Rather than be a love that has blossomed later in life, it seems that Susan has always harboured an interest in the natural world. ‘I have got a very early picture of me as a toddler with an armful of flowers,’ she reveals. ‘I grew up in a garden full of roses and I started to dance when I was three and sang as well. Then my middle name is Rosalind… Of course, I am a singer, that’s what I do, but the only other singer with a rose named after them is Maria Callas. When I see a hundred of my roses planted in front of La Scala I feel really thrilled. You can’t buy something like that.’
After understandably taking time off, Susan is getting back into the swing of things with her singing. How have things changed over the years? ‘Now everything happens a lot more quickly,’ she says. ‘I don’t get long rehearsal periods any more, and it’s more demanding too, but I do still love it. To be a really good opera singer you do it without a microphone.’ And regale this interviewer by singing down the phone, too.
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