Classical Preview: Julia heads north for a rare performance

"Hey, you've got a great voice", came the rather surprised comment from an onlooker as young Julia Riley was fooling around with a friend as they tried to make an operatic version of the school song at Knaresborough's King James. Up to that point, she had no idea she could really sing.

"I was learning piano and flute in preparation for studying music as a career", Julia recalls, "but with this new encouragement, I started taking singing lessons."

Eventually arriving at Edinburgh University, she quickly grew tired of writing about music, and moved to London's Royal Academy of Music as a singing student, and, in her own words, "has never looked back since".

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With many appearances at prestige venues, including the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Paris Opera Comique, Scottish Opera, she has an upcoming debut at the Toulouse Opera in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

"At present, life revolves around the date of my baby's birth, but life as a mother

will have to be integrated with a career on the opera stage," she says.

Riley returns north tomorrow night as the alto soloist with the York Musical Society in a performance of Dvorak's Stabat Mater.

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Although the work is seldom performed today, it brought Dvorak his first major success in England, both as a composer and conductor, and was to give rise to an invitation to write a work for the Leeds Triennial Festival that followed, four years later, in 1886.

This performance marks the penultimate appearance of Philip Moore as the society's conductor.

York Musical Society, York Minster, March 20, 7.30pm. 0844 9390015.