A guide to Nicky Spence and his best recordings

Who is Nicky Spence?

Nicky Spence is a Scottish operatic tenor known for his vocal and physical stature (up to his height of 12ft), his velvety vocal timbre, his open-minded approach to repertoire and his charisma – qualities that won over the player 39 years old. singer this year BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year Award.

Where is he from?

Dumfries, near the Scottish Borders, where he grew up on a farm.

How did Nicky Spence get into music?

Although Spence originally wanted to play the trumpet – and briefly learned it as a child – his family could not afford the lessons. Fortunately, a music teacher at his school spotted his talent for singing, which won him the Dumfries and Galloway Young Musician of the Year award at the age of 14, as well as a place in Scottish Youth. Theater and the National Youth Music Theatre.

When did opera come on the scene?

After a neighbor offered 15-year-old Spence a spare ticket to Mozart The magic flute. He was hooked.

Where did he study?

At the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where in his final year he got his first big break, receiving a five-disc deal with Universal classics. Within just a few years, he released his first album (My first love), was nominated for the “Young British Classical Performer of the Year” Classical Brit Award and toured with Katherine Jenkins and Shirley Bassey. He said he owed more to Tom Jones than to Pavarotti to find his voice. However, when recording his second album, Spence turned his back on the £1 million contract, choosing instead to return to full-time study at the Guildhall to concentrate on opera.

And since ?

He has sung in opera houses and concert halls around the world, with regular appearances at the Royal Opera House and the English National Opera. Admitting that he has an aversion to the “rum-ti-tum” operas of Donizetti and the “silent” side of Verdi, Spence specialized in complex and truthful roles, frequently taking on the repertoire of Czech composers Leos Janacek and Antonin Dvorak. He also has an affinity for wagnerhaving appeared in The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, Der fliegende Hollander, Tristan and Isolda and Das Rheingold and sang much of the 20th century repertoire. But he still casts his net beyond classical music, freely professing his love of musicals and often embracing the sounds of Broadway in his work.

Anything else I should know about Nicky Spence?

Even by the standards of A-list singers, Spence has a special knack for keeping busy. Last winter, he was one of three mentors appearing on everyone can sing, a television series in which six potential singers were guided by expert singers. Even during the pandemic, he made every minute count, biting more than 100 people every day as a volunteer at an immunization clinic.

Nicky Spence’s Best Recordings

Diary of a missing person

Hyperion CDA 68282

Nicky Spence fully inhabits the drama of this unusual song cycle, with pianist Julius Drake and mezzo Václava Housková his sultry seductress.

As You Like It: Songs of Shakespeare

Resonus RES 10116

This selection of Shakespeare songs by a range of composers from Schubert for Tippet provides a great showcase for Spence’s versatility.

Paradise on Earth: A collection of songs in French

Chandos CHAN 10893

Spence performs songs by Debussy and lesser-known song cycles by Lili BoulangerCaplet and Chaminade, with pianist Malcolm Martineau.

Buxton-Orr songs

Delphin DCD 34175

For this collection of songs closer to Spence’s Scottish roots, his agile and characterful singing is accompanied by pianist Iain Burnside.

Hoddinott Landscapes: song cycles and folk songs

Naxos 8.571360

In these characterful songs, Spence’s rendition is well matched by Andrew Matthews-Owen’s superb pianism.

Photo: Getty

Comments are closed.