Nicky Spence – In His Own Words

The Luxury Channel caught up with renowned Scottish tenor and Opera Ambassador Nicky Spence before the inaugural International Opera Awards.

Nicky Spence

I think this is one of the first opera awards which has not left a stone unturned; it’s looking at opera as the giant machine it is, because so many people are involved with putting an opera on – not just the singers, who often get all the plaudits, but also technical staff, the orchestra, the conductor, the opera company itself that puts a lot of love into their programming and who use invention to make their season successful. I think on an international basis as well, this is the first time that it’s gone worldwide.

I think the Awards will raise the profile of opera, but I also think because a lot of the money being raised is going into the pot to help future generations of opera singers and conductors and anybody else who is trying to contribute to the opera world as a whole – it’s a fantastic thing.

I’ve seen all sorts of exciting set designs in my time. I’ve been in operas myself where there have been massive 30 foot buildings being moved around on stage, and whole villages are in the docks and getting moved across in a change of about ten seconds. When things like that are happening, I know who I’d rather be friends with – the person who’s moving that!

The one memorable opera that stands out for me is probably singing Peter Grimes in Salzburg and being involved in that project with Sir Simon Rattle and the Birmingham Philharmonic at the Festspiele, which is humongous. Just seeing the effort that went in from both the local people and everybody involved was heart-warming. Salzburg is great – it’s so romantic.

Opera is for everybody. There are always parts of opera that will always appeal to the elite. So if people want to put their furs and pearls on, then that’s great. But there’s also another very important duty that we have to inform our young and future audiences as well, which is why it’s great that ENO [English National Opera], for example, offer tickets for ten pounds for people under a certain age. Opera is such a wide genre now – it’s not just the old weepies; there’s also contemporary opera with contexts that really stimulate young people, so there’s no reason why it can’t be for everybody.

There are fantastic opera companies that tour to almost every hole in the hedge. You see opera everywhere. You just need to know that it’s going on, so it’s important that marketing departments let people know that it’s happening, so that you can see the most wonderful operas. There are people who are being recognized for doing exactly that – going into places which don’t have a main opera house and making it possible.

The UK has got a large standing in the Awards but also internationally, I think Sir Pappano is amazing and it would be fantastic to see him recognized [Antonio Pappano won the award for best conductor]. There’s also some great young talent – Allan Clayton, the tenor, and Sophie Bevan is fantastic as well [Sophie Bevan won the award for best young singer].

I’d love for everybody to have a great time tonight. The best thing is that in the opera world, everybody knows each other so well, so it’ll be good. Yeah, it’s very cliquey, but it’s very friendly, so it’s just going to be great fun, I should think. It’s not often that opera singers get a bona fide excuse to have a good drink as well, so I should think they’ll all just be kicking back and enjoying themselves. Rehearsals tomorrow all over the country will be slightly the worse for it!

I would suggest you book for ENO, who are just about to do a new production of Wozzeck, which I think will be interesting, and I’m making my debut at the Metropolitan Opera in September, which I did in London, called Two Boys by Nico Muhly.

The most luxurious thing about opera is bathing yourself in human-made sounds from the very souls of singers – there’s nothing more personal.