Professor Bernard Diamant, baritone, was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1912. His father, also Bernard Diamant, was a well known opera conductor, and his mother, Marita Verna, was a well known opera singer specializing in Wagner roles.
His father was very against him following any kind of musical career and, different from his school mates of the time, he received no musical education at all. However, such was his love of music that he taught himself piano at a very early age, learning from a book he found in his father’s library. He would accompany his mother when she rehearsed and thus learned not only a large repertoire but also how to accompany a singer–a skill which served him well when he began to teach.
He tells the story of when he was in elementary school and the teacher asked him to sing a song (knowing that he was the son of a famous conductor and singer)–a children’s song, or a folksong. To the embarrassment of the teacher he told her he didn’t know any children’s songs. The teacher could hardly believe her ears and, feeling that he had said something wrong, quickly added: “But I can sing you the whole of the Verdi Requiem.” (Quote from an interview with Martine van Os on Netherlands Radio 4 (Tros) )
Despite his father’s objections he began vocal studies in The Netherlands when he was 17 with the then 71 year old Cornelia van Sante. Later he studied with Louis van Mulder, Max Kloos, Ton de Nijs and Maartje Offers. When he was 19 he went to Paris to study with Rose Heilbronner (who was a star at the Opera Comique) and then with Charles Ponsera. His last teacher was Otillia Plaut in Berlin who, as he states in the radio interview mentioned above, helped him find the “core” of his voice–something he searched for over a long period of time. It was this search which drove him from teacher to teacher until, at last, he found someone who could help him find it.
He sang in The Netherlands and in many leading German opera houses (Frankfurt, Munich). During the second world war he had a permanent engagement at the opera in Carlsbad, in Czechoslovakia, where he not only sang but acted.
Shortly after the second world war ended Prof Diamant emigrated to Canada where, based in Montreal he gave many recitals and broadcasts for CBC Radio Canada with the pianist John Newmark and with the CBC Radio Orchestra which was mostly made up, at that time, of German and Austrian émigrés. The programmes were varied and included a series called “Anthology of the German Lied” and another series called “The Earth which Sings.”
He began to teach singing privately in Montreal (and later at the University of Toronto) and quickly established himself as one of Canada's foremost singing teachers. Among his notable pupils were Maureen Forrester, Gaylene Gabora, John Boyden, Joan Patteneude and Janet Stubbs.
He retired in 1985 and returned to Holland where he lived in Amsterdam in an elegant canal house on the Leidsegracht, filled with beautiful antique Dutch furniture, paintings and always masses of freshly cut flowers. He returned to Canada regularly to give master classes. He died, in Amsterdam, in August 1999