Brian Michael Moore has lived a fuller life in 24 years than most people do in a lifetime — in barely a quarter of a century, the young tenor has beaten cancer twice, lived in multiple states and has shared the stage with some of the world’s most esteemed musicians. Currently in his first season as a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist, Moore has already been seen in the company’s productions of Wonderful Town and Salome. This month and next, he’s playing Nathanaël in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and sharing the stage with opera superstars Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau.
Prior to his time in Los Angeles, the Cincinnati native attributes his musical beginnings to his parents, who enrolled him in piano lessons as a small child. Though neither of them “were that musical,” as Moore states, classical music was a big part of his childhood development. While balancing school and sports, his first taste of the limelight came in the seventh grade, after he was cast in the ensemble of his school’s production of Oliver! — however, the opportunity was over for him before it even began.
“I was never told when rehearsals would start or where they were, so I just never showed up,” Moore laughs. “And then they performed it and I thought ‘Well, I guess I could have been in that.’”
Though his stage career began rocky, Moore eventually became serious about pursuing singing professionally. He participated in his school’s musical the following year, singing in the Barbershop Quartet in “The Music Man.” And after taking the advice from his middle school musical director, he began taking formal voice lessons the summer before he entered high school, where he was first exposed to classical singing.
“I always had a more classical voice,” says Moore. “I was in a bunch of musicals growing up, but I never really latched on the musical theatre-style of singing. I was given art songs and arias by my first voice teacher in Ohio, Karl Resnik, and it was during this time that I realized I related more to the subject matter and style of opera.”
After years of voice lessons, his studies eventually led him to New York City as an undergraduate at Manhattan School of Music. Moore graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in voice, and returned that fall in pursuit of a master’s degree. However, halfway through the completion of his master’s, he was accepted into the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program. Though cautious to leave the master’s program prematurely, his mentors believed he was ready to enter the professional opera world ahead of schedule.
“There was a lot of talk whether it was appropriate for me to leave Manhattan School of Music a year early,” Moore says. “But I had done so many extra credits during my undergrad that I had pretty much already gotten all the credits out of the way for my masters, so I’m still going to graduate this year, even though I’m in LA.”
Though Moore has achieved immense success at a young age, it didn’t come without a struggle. At eight years old, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a type of bone cancer that was detected in his left leg. After a year of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as a minor surgery to remove parts of the fibula, Moore fully recovered and was once again returned to music and sports. However, less than four years later, Moore began feeling pain in his right arm, which he speculated was attributed to a pulled muscle. After the pain became more severe, he was eventually diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in his right shoulder.
“It was completely unrelated to my first diagnosis, which is super rare,” Moore recounts. “Since it was inside my arm bone, I had to undergo this huge reconstruction surgery in which my shoulder joint was removed, so I no longer have a joint in my right shoulder — my humerus is fused to my scapula, so I can only move my arm as much as my shoulder blade can move.”
Following a year of chemotherapy, Moore was determined cancer-free. However, given the nature of his shoulder surgery, the recovery process was much more complex. Moore had to re-learn how to do everyday things with just one arm, such as eating, getting dressed and even playing the piano.
“My piano teacher at the time gave me a book of etudes for just the left hand, so I still had piano lessons. The nurses in the hospital would bring me a keyboard that I would put on my lap and I would play jingles and holiday tunes for them,” recalls the tenor.
Since then, Moore has been in remission for 12 years and has never been healthier — nor busier. This summer, he heads to the Aspen Opera Theater Center to cover the title role in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito and also performing in a concert performance of Luke Bedford’s chamber opera Seven Angels, all before returning for his second year as a Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist. Though a singer’s schedule is often dense, Moore can’t imagine doing anything else.
“Singing is such a wonderful outlet for me, because I have a lot of energy as a person,” Moore smiles. “It’s a whole-body physical experience — and I just love it.”
Arya Roshanian is a reporter based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Variety and Opera News.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.