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2006-02-20 Prima Donna

On the way to a show recently in Belfast, Niall Morris got into conversation with budding star Miss Donna Malone.

 

Niall:
What was it like growing up in the West of Ireland?

Donna:
Wet! (laughes)

Niall:
No, seriously, did you go to a local school?

Donna:
Yes, I went to an all girl national school and secondary school in my home town which is called Ballina. I took part in choir, singing in the church and had my first moments on stage in the school musicals. It was in 5th class of national school that I had my first opportunity to perform a main singing and acting role. It was a fairytale play and we both sang and acted in the irish language. Would you believe, we travelled to various venues in Ireland to be adjudicated! It was pretty cool getting dolled up with make-up and costumes at the tender age of 10! Such fun we had.

Niall:
So you didn’t go to stage school in Mayo then?

Donna:
No, but I went to St Cecilia’s School of Song during the evenings each week. It was there that I got my first taste for music.

Niall:
But you’re so young. Are you still officially a prodigy?

Donna:
People at school thought it was very strange that I always had a big voice which sounded like an opera singer. When I did my singing exams at the Royal Irish Academy, I was the only one who stuck to the old classical style of exams, even though most of my friends went for the more contemporary option.

Niall:
Who was your first singing teacher?

Donna:
Her name was Lavinia Slater. She singlehandedly started the singing school and I was one of her first students. She started the singing school 11 years ago when she was really young.

Niall:
You mean you started when you were only seven? So you were a prodigy! Who is your favourite singer?

Donna:
Maria Callas.

Niall:
O My Goodness, Donna, quelle coincidence! She’s my favourite singer too.

Donna:
Sure don’t I know. You must have used your Irish charm to get your hands on that letter of hers that you have in your apartment.

Niall:
I love that hand written letter by Maria. I am very lucky to have found it in Manhattan. Actually, I really must give it back to the Metropolitan Museum soon. (laughes) So, Donna, what’s your ambition for your singing career?

Donna:
At the moment I am happy as Larry with you guys, travelling around and having so much fun. I am enjoying getting to see a little bit of the world. It’s like a big learning curve for me right now.

Niall:
You really have been thrown in the deep end, haven’t you? And I have never ever once seen you get nervous. You must have nerves of steel, Miss Malone?

Donna:
I am lucky that I don’t usually suffer from stage fright but I was very nervous at the National Concert Hall in Dublin just before Christmas. That was the start of the Irish tour and to begin in such a famous venue was very daunting. I found it very different performing to an Irish audience because there were so many relations, friends and family in the audience. It was very different in Canada and America because I didn’t know anyone there.

Niall:
So will you get nervous when you sing in Carnegie Hall?

Donna:
Of course I will! It’s every performer’s dream to sing at Carnegie Hall in New York. I can’t imagine I will ever be lucky enough to get there.

Niall:
O I’d say you will. So when is you’re 19th birthday?

Donna:
15th May.

Niall:
And where will you be spending it?

Donna:
I’m not sure. It’s very hard to tell where you’ll be from one day to the next in the music business. It’s difficult to plan ahead. Things change on a daily basis. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so exciting. Recently, for instance, we went to Dubai and Muscat in the Gulf. I only heard about that about a week before.

Niall:
That’s not much warning. So you don’t have time to go shopping for your trip?

Donna:
No but I always try to shop while I am away. It’s nice to come back with something. When we were in Muscat, we went to the souk and bought pashminas.

Niall:
What are they?

Donna:
A pashmina is a traditional garment that Middle Eastern women wear to cover their shoulders. I bought three of them.

Niall:
Really? Was that one for each shoulder?

Donna:
Yes. (laughing) And I bought 20 gold rings; one for each finger!

Niall:
O Donna, you really are a ticket! The boys must think you’re gorgeous.

Donna:
O, now that would be telling.

Niall:
Can you ever imagine living anywhere else other than Ireland?

Donna:
Yes I could. All this recent travelling has opened up my eyes. I didn’t realise how big the world is and how small Ireland is in comparison.

Niall:
Do you ever want to sing at Covent Garden and do a convential opera?

Donna:
O I’d love to, but my voice is only still maturing. It won’t be fully developed until I am 22. Right now, I love the diversity there is with the Celtic Tenors. I really enjoy singing "All I Ask Of You" with James, for instance. And "Nella Fantasia" is so beautifully written for the voice. I am so lucky to get this opportunity while I am so young. To be honest, sometimes I can’t quite believe it is happening.

Niall:
And it all came from that chance audition last year.

Donna:
I know. I suppose it proves the theory that luck is being in the right place at the right time.

Niall:
Well, Donna, we’re almost in Belfast now, so, I really only have time for one last question. Who’s your favourite Celtic Tenor?

Donna:
I couldn’t tell you that!

Niall:
I’m really disappointed. I was sure you were going to say that it’s me.

Donna:
Of course it’s you, Niall. Just don’t tell the others!