Tag Archives: Nicky Spence

REVIEW: The Flying Dutchman – Scottish Opera, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh


This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writer and Librettist: Richard Wagner

Conductor: Francesco Corti

Director: Harry Fehr

Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★½

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Richard Wagner was a not a very pleasant man, in fact a rather unpleasant man indeed, a man with an ideology almost whole-heartedly abhorrent to a modern audience, an ideology that encompassed: anti-Semitism, racism and rampant misogyny. The question that needs to be asked then is: Does the quality of his work transcend what we might feel about the man himself?

The answer here is a resounding yes. Scottish Opera make an triumphant return to form with the company’s first Wagner opera since 2003 and it’s first revival of The Flying Dutchman for 25 years.

Based upon the legend of the Captain of the aforementioned ghostly ship, who, in return for safe passage through a storm, is cursed to sail the seas until eternity unless he can find a women who will love him with utter fidelity until she dies.

Director Harry Fehr and designers Tom Scutt and James Farncombe have acknowledged the difficulties that a 21st century audience may have engaging with a storyline Wagner originally wrote reflecting his belief that women should wholly subjugate themselves to their menfolk and have tried to navigate away from the unavoidable misogyny at the core of Wagner’s tale.

This early work has been re-set by the creative team in the 1970s, in a beleaguered port in the north east of Scotland and gets right to the heart of the tale of two lonely people so desperate they will do anything for the chance of love. This decision, cleverly removing any barriers the audience may have engaging with Wagner’s originally mystical and misogynistic piece, gives it an instant familiarity and greater reality that grabs the audience’s attention from the start.


Much of the enjoyment of the piece though lies in the central performances of Senta, daughter of a ship’s captain, lonely, unloved and trapped in the claustrophobic confines of the fishing port where she lives, and the mysterious Dutchman, forlornly roaming the seas searching for love. As Senta, Rachel Nicholls is on stunning form, from the first to the last note she thrills: carrying the audience along on her journey through loneliness and obsession to optimism and happiness to inevitable tragedy with a finely tuned performance and a sublime voice that grabs and holds the attention throughout. Less successful is the casting of Wagnerian specialist Peteris Eglitis as the Dutchman. With a voice which was underpowered and often overwhelmed by the majestic sounding orchestra, Eglitis failed to make up for these shortcomings by lacking in charisma as well.

In support tenor Nicky Spence as the young helmsman particularly shone, the mischievous glint in his eye and spring in his step as well as his soaring voice of clarity and power was especially enthralling. The male chorus too cannot go without mention for providing many of the “hairs on the back of the neck moments” when they sang as one.

Arguably one of Wagner’s most accessible works The Flying Dutchman is a powerful, engaging and emotional tale made all the more so by this tremendously talented creative team and cast.

Runs until: 19th April

Photo: James Glossop


INTERVIEW: Scotland’s leading young tenor Nicky Spence talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog about his stellar career

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Leading Scottish tenor Nicky Spence is an ENO Harwood Artist who trained at the Guildhall School and the National Opera Studio. Following significant success in the British Opera houses including his acclaimed portrayal in the lead role of Brian in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys at the London Coliseum in 2011, he will make his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in the same production in 2013. Nicky is recognised as one of the UK’s finest young singers and is increasingly in demand internationally. He is an ambassador for Age UK and the Musician’s Benevolent Fund. Glasgow Theatre Blog had the chance to talk to this rising star in a rare break in his hectic schedule.

Can we go back to your beginnings, tell me a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a classical singer?

I used to sing everything from Whitney Houston and Tom Jones to The Mamas and Papas; whatever was in the record collection when I was a kid. Then someone gave me a ticket to see The Magic Flute when I was 15, a neighbour had a spare ticket, I went and a love affair began. From there, my music teacher thought that I had the potential to be more of a classical singer and said that it would be a shame to let my voice go to waste, so I had singing lessons from the age of 16. I applied for the Guildhall School in London, got in, and went to study there when I was 17.

You are currently in rehearsal for The Flying Dutchman with Scottish Opera; tell us about your role and how rehearsals are going?

The rehearsals are going really well – I am literally about to get onto the ship as it were! I’m playing the young Steersman who I suppose is the token young tenor who falls in love – he’s the voice of youth and inexperience, which I often am onstage! The Flying Dutchman is an epic piece, a tale of unrequited love and destiny and I’m looking forward to performing in it.


What has been your favourite role to play so far in your career?

So far I’d say it was probably Lampwick in The Adventures of Pinocchio with Opera North as I got to be a twelve year old and have fun, it gave me license to be really naughty. I enjoyed Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress because of the dramatic arc I had and Tamino in The Magic Flute with Scottish Opera last year.


Opera North’s Adventures of Pinocchio

Laura Mitchell as Pamina & Nicky Spence as Tamino in Scottish Opera's The Magic Flute © Ken Dundas

Nicky Spence as Tamino with Laura Mitchell as Pamina in Scottish Opera’s The Magic Flute © Ken Dundas

Which roles do you covet?

I’d love to play Tom Rakewell again and Albert Herring. There are things I need to do before I get too old, too bald or too fat! I’d love to get those under my belt.

You’ve recently released your debut recital recording, As You Like It – Shakespeare Songs; can you tell us a bit more about how you came to choose this particular material to record?

I thought Shakespeare was a great source, like Robert Burns, Shakespeare was a bawdy bard – with twelve suicides in his plays there was plenty of room for melancholy as well, and at our fingertips was about 400 years of song settings to work with. It was a massive field to look into and hopefully I’ve chosen some interesting bits to listen to. It’s also in English, so for my first recital recording it was nice to have that immediacy with my audience.

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You’ve just completed a tour with Scottish Opera to the farthest reaches of Scotland, spreading the word about opera – how was that experience, it looked like you had a great rapport on stage.

We had such fun; it was great, just super. It was also great to see the audience reaction at such close quarters, but it was really hard work travelling to all those remote places. I also think it is really important from the point of view of bringing opera to those who wouldn’t have the chance to see it or to those who don’t know very much about it. It’s especially effective in fulfilling Scottish Opera’s aim of have opera no more than thirty miles from anyone in the country.


What other highlights do you have coming up this year?

After The Flying Dutchman it’s back down to London to do some work with the ENO, after that I make my debut with Grange Park Opera in Dialogues des Carmélites then it’s off to New Zealand to play Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni then I’m making my debut at The Met in New York with the role of Brian in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys which I created at the ENO. I’m really looking forward to playing him again, especially as he’s so different to myself.

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Finally what composers works would you recommend to encourage people to get into opera?

Tosca is a great one, from the first chord there’s drama and it’s really accessible, La bohème is a great one, Puccini has a way of really manipulating the listener’s heart, it’s a great place to start and Marriage of Figaro is great too.

For more information about Nicky see: www.nickyspence.com

Nicky’s debut recital album As You Like It – Shakespeare Songs is available from http://www.resonusclassics.com/


The Flying Dutchman


Scottish Opera/Corti

4, 6, 9 April 2013 at The Theatre Royal, Glasgow

13, 16, 19 April 2013 at The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh


Dialogues des Carmélites

Chevalier de la Force

Grange Park Opera/Barlow

11, 14, 22, 30 June 2013

6, 12 July 2013

Don Giovanni

Don Ottavio

NBR New Zealand Opera

17, 21, 23, 25, 27 August 2013

REVIEW: Scottish Opera Highlights 2013


“Full of energy, versatility and plenty of humour, a cast of four young singers and a pianist introduce a line-up of excerpts from well-known operas along with some surprises from lesser-known works. A favourite with audiences across Scotland, this gem of an evening has something for everyone, from seasoned fans to opera first-timers.”  Scottish Opera

The programme for this year’s Opera Highlights is inspired by 50 years of Scottish Opera, featuring a winning formula of musical highlights from favourite productions over the years woven together with stories and anecdotes from the Company’s history. The cast of up-and-coming artists features Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Katie Grosset, Scottish soprano Eleanor Dennis (finalist in 2012’s Kathleen Ferrier Competition), baritone Gary Griffiths (an Associate Artist at Welsh National Opera) and Scottish tenor Nicky Spence, who is also appearing in The Magic Flute and The Flying Dutchman this season.

The talent, carefully chosen programme and staging make for a highly entertaining and engaging evening. The personalities of the singers (in particular Nicky Spence a man with a personality as big as his voice) as well as the undoubted talent, meant that the evening flew by.

There were many highlights in particular: Dennis’s affecting rendition of Oh Pale Blue Dawn from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel; Spence’s beautifully heart-rending take on Kurt Weill’s Lonely House from Street Scene and a fabulously comic rendition of Offenbach’s The Typsy Waltz from La Périchole  by Grosset, which also highlighted her fine acting skills.

Included in the programme was the world premiere of Hand by Gareth Williams (Scottish Opera’s composer in residence) with text by the highly talented Johnny McKnight. Beautifully sung it promises much as a piece of modern opera if developed into a full-length work.

The evening is, as always, a combination of the familiar and the challenging. A fine introduction to opera which will inspire new fans and delight afficionados equally.

Highly recommended.