Toby Spence

‘In a career-best performance by an incandescent Toby Spence, Captain Vere becomes a boyish and insecure figure.’ The Telegraph, 24 April 2019

Billy Budd: Royal Opera House



Toby Spence has sung with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, the Paris Opera, English National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro Real, Madrid, Theater an der Wien, and the Hamburgische Staatsoper, and at the Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence and Edinburgh festivals.

On the concert platform he works with Sir Simon Rattle, Andris Nelsons, Thomas Adés, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Semyon Bychkov.

Recent operatic engagements Captain Vere in the Teatro Real’s new production of Billy Budd and at Covent Garden, Don Ottavio Don Giovanni at the Liceu Barcelona, Anatol Vanessa at Frankfurt Opera and Ghandi Satyagraha for English National Opera.

Toby will begin this season with a performance as Pylades in Iphigénie with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at Ateneul Român in Bucharest, followed by an appearance in the title role of Lazarus at the Kammerakademie Potsdam. Later in the season he will appear twice as Florestan in Fidelio, firstly at the Stavanger Concert Hall, then at the Garsington Opera and round it off with two performances of Janáček’s Osud at the National Theatre Brno. On the concert platform, Toby will be performing Mahler’s Das Klagendes Lied and Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht with the Houston Symphony, as well as the former’s Symphony of a Thousand at Atlanta Symphony Hall and Das Lied von der Erde at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. In Bratislava he will sing The Dream of Gerontius at the Slovak Philharmonic Concert Hall, followed shortly by a performance of the Missa Solemnis at the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic. 2020 will also see three performances of Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings at the Prague Rudolfinum, the Auditorium de l’Orchestre National de Lyon and the Ishikawa Ongakudo Concert Hall, as well as Haydn’s Creation at the Barbican.


From The Green Room


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    ORFF: Carmina Burana

    Label: Deutsche Grammophon

    Release Date: 04 Jan 19

    Live from the Forbidden City

    Max Richter: November
    Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor op. 18
    Orff: Carmina Burana
    Mari Samuelsen
    Daniil Trifonov
    Aida Garifulina · Toby Spence · Ludovic Tézier
    Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
    Long Yu
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    BRITTEN: War Requiem

    Label: Münchner Philharmoniker

    Release Date: 16 Jun 17

    Conductor: Lorin Maazel

    Soprano: Anna Samuil
    Tenor: TOBY SPENCE
    Bass Baritone: Hanno Muller-Brachmann
    Münchner Philharmoniker


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    HAYDN: The Creation

    Label: Pentatone

    Release Date: 22 Jun 18

    Conductor: Andres Orozco-Estrada
    Soprano: Nicole Heaston
    Tenor: Toby Spence
    Bass: Peter Rose
    Houston Symphony Chorus & Houston Symphony

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    Lutosławski: Vocal and Orchestral Works

    Label: Chandos

    Release Date: 02 Feb 18

    Recorded: 29-31 March 2011

    Lutosławski: Paroles tissées

    BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Conductor: Edward Gardner
    Tenor: Toby Spence

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    Label: Linn Records

    Release Date: 20 May 16

    A live recording of an acclaimed one-off, sold-out performance at the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival.


    Conductor: Richard Egarr

    Josephine: Elizabeth Watts

    Ralph Rackstraw: Toby Spence

    Sir Joseph Porter KCB: John Mark Ainsley

    Captain Corcoran: Andrew Foster-Williams

    Buttercup: Hilary Summers

    Dick Deadeye: Neal Davies

    Bill Bobstay: Gavan Ring

    Bob Becket: Barnaby Rea

    Hebe: Kitty Whately

    Narrator: Tim Brooke-Taylor

    Scottish Opera

    Recorded: 23 August 2015

    Recording Venue: Live Recording, Usher Hall, Edinburgh


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    SZYMANOWSKI Symphonies Nos 3 & 4; Stabat Mater

    Label: LSO Live

    Release Date: 02 Sep 13

    Conductor: Valery Gergiev
    Tenor: TOBY SPENCE
    Piano: Denis Matsuev
    London Symphony Chorus
    London Symphony Orchestra

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    MAHLER' Das Lied von der Erde'

    Label: LPO Live 2013

    Release Date: 01 Oct 13

    Mezzo-soprano: SARAH CONNOLLY
    Tenor: TOBY SPENCE
    London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Recorded at the Royal Festival Hall, 19 February 2011

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    13 Jun 20 Live from Covent Garden
    Royal Opera House

    “The high point for me was tenor Toby Spence’s wonderfully tactful account of George Butterworth’s first set of Shropshire Lad settings, allowing their vocal lines to make their own eloquent point.”
    Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 15 June 2020


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    07 Feb 20 BEETHOVEN Fidelio Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
    Stavanger Konserthus

    “Til å spille en snart døende fange synger den britiske tenoren Toby Spence med uforskammet vitalitet og kraft – en av vår tids store stemmer som han er.”

    Playing a soon-to-die prisoner, British tenor Toby Spence sings with great vitality and vigour – one of the great voices of our time that he is.

    Stavanger Aftenblad, 09 February 2020


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    23 Apr 19 BRITTEN Billy Budd (Captain Vere)
    Royal Opera House

    In a career-best performance by an incandescent Toby Spence, Captain Vere becomes a boyish and insecure figure. Detached from the harsh realities of life below decks as he sips sherry and contemplates the lessons of Thucydides in his dressing gown, he is thrown far out of his moral depth when confronted with the paradox of Billy’s innate innocence and act of instinctive violence. Like Pontius Pilate, he submits to earthly law in condemning Billy to death, against his better judgment: but the epilogue allows him an old age in which he grasps at an understanding that redeems him.’


    Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 24 April 2019


    Billy Budd is Britten’s second opera for his beloved tenor partner, and the Royal Opera got one thing right for this somewhat dubious new production by Deborah Warner: namely Toby Spence in Peter Pears’s role, Edward Fairfax Vere, captain of HMS Indomitable. Sensitive, confessional, attractive, feeling, remote, Spence (much handsomer than Pears ever was) dominates the entire performance in a way I have not seen before… minutely true to the role and its responsibilities. Philip Langridge in 1988 was a wonderful Vere at ENO for director Tim Albery, but Spence seems even more at home in the role, utterly remote from everybody else in the story – exactly as a naval Captain would be. He sings beautifully too, giving Forster’s text enunciation to die for.’

    Tom Sutcliffe, The Critics’ Circle, 25 April 2019


    ‘…But individual performers make their mark. Jacques Imbrailo (Billy), Toby Spence (Vere) and Brindley Sherratt (Claggart) are an unimproveable central triangle — Imbrailo’s impetuous innocent caught between Spence’s remote, professorial Vere and Sherratt’s silken, self-loathing villainy. The word ‘love’ curdles with sickening sweetness in Sherratt’s mouth, while Spence’s youth and unyielding purity reframes the power dynamic between captain and crew. ‘

    Alexandra Coghlan, The Spectator, 04 May 2019


    ‘As the ship’s beloved captain, “Starry” Vere, Toby Spence conveys the frailty of conscience, the dilemma of leadership, which can make the most powerful weak. This Vere is uneasy, indulgent, unknowable: a multi-faceted interpretation.’

    Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, 28 April 2019


    ‘Warner makes Vere’s moral dilemma the central key. Toby Spence’s captain is remote, a dreamer reading Plutarch in his bath, pressing his ear to the deck as the crew sing shanties below, lulled into believing his men are content with their lot. Spence was in terrific voice, able to float honeyed head notes but his tenor rings out like a bell in Vere’s more declamatory moments. He clearly knows Claggart is dishonest but is too bound by rules to speak up for Billy, a Pilate-like figure who neglects to save an innocent.’

    Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, 24 April 2019


    ‘Spence comes into his own in the trial scene, when his voice blooms in line and fullness…’

    Peter Reed, Classical Source, 23 April 2019


    ‘Respected Vere is sung with power and honesty by Toby Spence, the cultivated captain’s admiration for the classics revealed in his gift for telling a compelling story.’


    Claudia Pritchard, Culture Whisper, 24 April 2019


    ‘…The role assumptions of Imbrailo, Spence and Sherratt are frequently breath-taking…Toby Spence commanded the stage as the conflicted Vere, his refusal to give counsel as to the fate of Billy in the work’s second act infinitely touching, his voice elastic and expressive throughout the evening.’

    Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International, 25 April 2019


    ‘English tenor Toby Spence was a thoroughly three-dimensional Captain Edward Fairfax Vere…It is in these moments when Spence is alone onstage that are the most poignant and beautifully told. An impressive Britten tenor, Spence has a noble and versatile sound. Using a liberal amount of falsetto and straight tone he shaped his words with intention, creating a heart wrenching image of regret.’

    Alessia Naccarato, Schmopera, 26 April 2019


    ‘Toby Spence may look rather too youthful to embody the “old man who has experienced much” who presents himself before us in the Prologue – here an ‘aged’ double sat stage-left, scouring the deck, perhaps in an attempt to erase past ‘sins’ – but he captured Vere’s dreamy self-absorption and lack of self-knowledge, shaping phrases and text with care and insight.’

    Claire Seymour, Opera Today, 26 April 2019


    ‘Toby Spence’s Vere was a strange, uptight man who seemed rather remote yet given to odd moments such as lying down and listening through the deck to the men singing below… In the Epilogue and Prologue, Spence sang as the young Vere with the older version present on stage too, looking haunted and defeated. Spence was in superb voice, floating passages beautifully yet with the focused power to make the voice cut through in the ensembles.

    Planet Hugill, 24 April 2019


    ‘Toby Spence’s Vere has his own kind of meltdown in the scene where Claggart accuses Billy. His lieutenants — the outstanding David Soar, Thomas Oliemans and Peter Kellner — almost have to restrain him from killing the master-at-arms…I don’t think I’ve seen a Vere lose his self-control so publicly. It’s a finely sung performance.’

    Hugh Canning, The Times, 28 April 2019


    ‘Toby Spence’s bright, youthful tenor..is vivid with the text’


    Richard Fairman, The Financial Times, 25 April 2019

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    09 Nov 18 Britten 'War Requiem' Toronto Symphony Orchestra
    Roy Thomson Hall

    “a true highlight was tenor Toby Spence who sang with powerful clarity, sensitivity to all that the text imagery had to offer him and with unstinting stylistic acumen.  I would love dearly to hear him in a recital of Britten songs. You could pick any of a half-dozen highlights of his beautiful interpretations of Owen’s wartime reflections, each of them moving in and of themselves, texts made into gold by Spence’s lovely instrument.”

    Stephan Bonfield, Ludwig Van Toronto, 9 November 2018

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    03 Nov 18 Stravinsky 'The Rake's Progress' (Tom Rakewell) London Philharmonic Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall

    “Toby Spence sang with his customary warmth and beauty, with a tonal colour perfectly suited to the wide-eyed Rakewell, his voice darkening and hollowing as his character descended into penury and madness”
    Stephen Pritchard, Bachtrack, 4 November 2018

    “from the start, Toby Spence played the part not as feckless youth but fully grown failure, already racked with remorse by his inability to do something with his life … I’ve never been so moved by Tom’s inexorable descent from graveyard to asylum.”
    Richard Morrison, The Times, 5 November 2018

    “Equally part of that success was Toby Spence’s Tom Rakewell – a relatively late substitute for Allan Clayton, but just as intelligent, and as strong, tenor-wise, as this surprising role often requires. Spence’s plus is that he looks young but has the wealth of experience to know how to handle Stravinsky’s more elaborate flights of fancy and heftier outbursts as well as the miraculously successful, because unorthodox, setting of the great libretto by W H Auden and Chester Kallman.”

    David Nice, The Arts Desk, 5 November 2018

    “Nevertheless, any disappointment at finding that Allan Clayton wasn’t singing Tom Rakewell was instantly dispelled by Toby Spence, a seasoned interpreter of the role, still freshly youthful and enthused. His arias “Love, too frequently betrayed” and “In a foolish dream” were exquisitely done.”


    Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 5 November 2018

    “A great Rake’s Progress, however, turns on the casting of Tom Rakewell and his Shadow, Nick. And this is what we got here…Toby Spence (as Tom) and Matthew Rose (as Nick Shadow – and, in a clever piece of dual casting, as the Keeper of the Madhouse) were superb. Spence brought vulnerability and gullibility to his Rakewell; Rose, a sinister flourish of menace.”

    Marc Bridle, Opera Today, 7 November 2018


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    18 Oct 18 Janáček: The Diary of One who Disappeared Oxford Lieder

    “The besotted diarist was tenor Toby Spence, on ringing form for these sometimes strenuous utterances. Janáček revised the score to moderate the demanding tessitura, but it is still a considerable undertaking.”

    Roy Westbrook, Bachtrack, 18 October 2018 


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    28 Sep 18 DVORAK: Stabat Mater Houston Symphony
    Jones Hall

    “…Tenor Toby Spence’s balance of deftness and heft paid off in his part of that duet. And Spence lent both sweetness and conviction to ‘Fac me vere,’ a solo whose euphonious melody exudes hopefulness even as the words describe Jesus’ agony.”

    Steven Brown, Texas Classical Review, 28 September 2018

    “…later she and Spence engaged in an exciting see-saw in the eighth (‘Fac, ut portem Christi mortem’). On his own, the tenor’s rich and unyielding solo passage in the sixth (‘Fac me vere tecum flere’), began to illuminate a path to escape the piece’s suffering — directly invoking it.”

    Chris Gray, Houston Chronicle, 27 September 2018 

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    08 May 18 BRITTEN 'Billy Budd' (Captain Vere)
    Opera di Roma

    “For ambivalence of character, one looked to the Captain Vere of Toby Spence. A man in his youthful prime, he would clearly have rather been in England hunting, but he was a captain in the Royal Navy; his Vere was never more at ease than when offering his officers a glass of wine. He was conflicted over Billy Budd’s fate, even believing in his innocence, but that could not rouse him to action. Spence’s elegant tenor captured all of those nuances in tones that were at times anguished, but never strained, and always beautiful.”
    Rick Perdian, Seen and Heard International, 18 May 2018

    “Spence produced an emotionally intense and finely drawn portrait of the captain. His acting was simply excellent, conveying perfectly the inherent weaknesses that define Vere. Whether sensitively pondering over the works of Plutarch, panicking over Claggart’s death or coldly divorcing himself from any part in the decision over Billy’s fate, his acting was engaging and compelling. His singing was of an equally high standard. He enunciated his words clearly, phrased his lines thoughtfully and skillfully, and used his sweet sounding tenor to great effect to produce a detailed and nuanced reading”
    Alan Neilson, Opera Wire, May 2018


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    01 Feb 18 GLASS 'Satyagraha' (Gandhi)
    English National Opera

    “in Toby Spence we get the perfect Gandhi: now completely recovered after his battle with throat cancer, he has also recovered the transparent purity of his youthful tenor voice.”

    Michael Church, The Independent, 5 February 2018 

    “Dominating all is Toby Spence’s Gandhi, a riveting amalgam of granite and gentleness, graduating into transcendental serenity in his massive final aria, where one phrase is repeated 30 times.”
    Donald Cooper, Satyagraha, 5 February 2018

    “At the heart of the show is Toby Spence’s thoughtful, cleanly sung Gandhi – human, touching and infinitely dignified as his ideas develop into actions that will change the course of history”
    George Hall, The Stage, 2 February 2018

    “I had nothing but admiration for Toby Spence, making his debut in the title role: his plagent timbre and imaginative phrasing brought something like pulsating life to Glass’s … inspiration”
    Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph, 4 February 2018

    “Toby Spence was a simply magnificent Gandhi.”
    Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International, 3 February 2018

    “A shaven-headed Toby Spence invested the role of Gandhi with dignity and an eerie stillness. Although rarely if ever absent from the stage, he remained silent for such long periods that each utterance of his golden tenor timbre seemed haloed with numinosity. That’s not an appropriate sensation for the resolutely human Mr G, but it was a magical one nonetheless.”

    Mark Valenica, What’s On Stage, 2 February 2018 

    “So to the singing, which I found to be first rate. Toby Spence, singing the role of Gandhi for the first time, was compelling in the title role. The part of Gandhi is difficult because for large sections of the opera the tenor isn’t singing – though he is on stage. Spence is undeniably impressive – he transforms from young lawyer in Act I to philosopher and emerging prophet in the rest of the opera with convincing believability. The voice isn’t stentorian (I don’t think this role really requires that kind of singing), but there is pathos, humanity and deep insight to his interpretation. He is also a formidable stage actor, which isn’t something one should take for granted with an opera singer.”

    Mark Bridle, Opera Today, 5 February 2018

    “Toby Spence brings off the potent force of Gandhi’s non-violent personality patiently and skilfully (the principles of ‘Satyagraha’ embody something more active than its popular conception as mere passive resistance would imply) as crowds are variously attracted and repelled by him. At the same time Spence exhibits the character’s detachment from the everyday world (even in his appearance during the opening scene as a lawyer in Western dress), and rightly making Gandhi seem not so much an individual person with a will of his own, but a channel for spiritual enlightenment and guidance. In his performance during Act One it is as though Spence expresses the younger Gandhi’s hesitant oscillation between his two selves (as a lawyer, and as a transformed holy man) by alternating in tone between lyrical simplicity, and a more vibrato-laden depth.”

    Curtis Rogers, Classical Source, 1 February 2018 

    “British tenor Toby Spence takes on the star role of Gandhi for the first time in this revival of the 2007 production. His voice is perfectly suited to this difficult part, and his presence on stage is both powerful and reassuring, recalling Gandhi’s position as both figurehead and philosopher.”

    Anna Souter, The Upcoming, 2 February 2018

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    09 Aug 17 Britten 'Ballad of Heroes' and Purcell 'Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei' BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Proms
    Royal Albert Hall

    “Toby Spence (tenor) gave heart and clarity to Swingler’s raw words of hope”
    Fiona Maddocks, Guardian, 12 August 2017

    “Toby Spence made his entry in the closing Recitative and Choral in bold, declamatory fashion, his words delivered with penetrating intensity … Toby Spence was again impressive as the tenor soloist”
    Christopher Thomas, Seen and Heard International, 16 August 2017

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    20 Jun 17 MOZART 'Don Giovanni' (Don Ottavio)
    Liceu Barcelona

    “Don Ottavio, lo encarnó con suma elegancia el tenor británico Toby Spence, debut en el Liceu. Control en la articulación, precisión y buen uso de los reguladores, una respiración notoria y un timbre adecuado, lo convirtieron en un Don Ottavio”

    “Don Ottavio was incarnated with great elegance by the British tenor Toby Spence; his debut at the Liceu. Control in the articulation, precision and good use of dynamics, impressive breath control and appropriate timbre, turned it into an impeccable Don Ottavio”
    Jordi Maddaleno, Platea Magazine, 26 June 2017


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    31 Jan 17 BRITTEN 'Billy Budd' (Captain Vere)
    Teatro Real Madrid

    “Tenor Toby Spence was equally convincing in the role of Captain Vere. He knows how to share emotion in his singing, and that is precisely what opera is about. This is an artist who never disappoints – quite the contrary.”
    José M. Irurzun, Seen and Heard International, 22 February 2017

    “His phrasing was masterful, based on clear diction and full of nuances. He portrayed an insecure, restless Vere, always too unwilling to display his authority aboard. This gave the character a touch of superficiality that made it difficult to say if Vere has learned anything from the tale, which weakens, in a very interesting way, his authority as implicit narrator.”
    Fernando Remiro, Bachtrack, 6 February 2017

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    13 Dec 16 BERLIOZ 'Requiem'
    BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall

    “Toby Spence … sang the Sanctus from the organ console and sent it ringing through the auditorium with an heroically full timbre”
    Mark Valencia, Bachtrack, 14 November 2016

    “The tenor solo of the Sanctus was radiantly sustained by Toby Spence”
    Peter Quantrill, The Arts Desk, 14 November 2016

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    13 Jun 16 MOZART 'Don Giovanni' (Don Ottavio)
    Orquesta de Euskadi, Kursaal San Sebastian

    “Toby Spence was the best Mozart singer of the entire cast in the part of Don Ottavio”
    José M. Irurzun, Seen and Heard International, 13 August 2016

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    17 Jun 16 MOZART 'Idomeneo'
    Garsington Opera, UK

    “‘The central casting is impressive, led by a star performance from Toby Spence, whose vividly voiced, internally conflicted Idomeneo is consistently involving’…’Toby Spence shines as the conflicted Cretan king in a mixed-period staging.'”
    The Stage, George Hall, June 2016 

    “Tenor Toby Spence is at the height of his powers just now, and his Idomeneo suffers the pangs of Abraham in a performance of gorgeous vocal colours and tortured theatricality. A ravishing, hitherto unsuspected baritonal quality suffuses his voice at times, while his agility in set pieces is breathtaking. A Peter Grimes in the making? He certainly looks the part.”
    What’s on Stage, Mark Valencia, June 2016 

    “We do, though, need the king’s final aria as a crowning glory for Toby Spence’s magnificently tortured protagonist…a terrible intensity… mingled with realisation that the boy must be the sacrifice to Neptune, “Fuor del mar”, gets the best deal since the heyday of Anthony Rolfe-Johnson – it was a decorative stretch too far for Philip Langridge, whose natural successor this tenor now turns out to be – and Spence engages both baritonal timbre and true tenorial upper-register ring in it without any obvious gear-changes.”
    The Arts Desk, David Nice, June 2016 

    “From the moment he rolled on to the stage, exhausted by shipwreck, Toby Spence’s Idomeneo was a sympathetic, fallible King of Crete, his earthy tenor achieving a moving delicacy in the opera’s closing scene of abdication and celebration.”
    Florra Wilson, The Guardian, June 2016 

    “Among an exceptionally strong cast, Toby Spence is wonderful in the title role, singing robustly and movingly portraying a father’s anguish as he faces losing his son through his own actions.”
    Tim Hughes, The Oxford Times, June 2016 

    “But among some very real tragedy — the echoes of the refugee crisis lightly sounded in Hannah Clark’s deft designs, Toby Spence’s Idomeneo wracked with all the self-doubt and conflicting urges of a Peter Grimes — there’s real joy to be found’…’his (Spence’s) Idomeneo is a rich psychological portrait, all the more interesting for its unusual vocal colouring. Still a lighter, higher-lying tenor than we might associate with the role (though growing in weight and interest each season), Spence works this rangy quality to his advantage. His huge set-piece ‘Fuor del mar’ has an edginess that’s strategically deployed: musical loveliness sacrificed for dramatic truth.'”
    Alexandra Coghlan, The Spectator, June 2016 

    “What makes this production so notable is that it is straightforward and never silly. Part of the credit for this belongs to the editing, and the rest to the truly excellent cast, led by tenor Toby Spence in the title role, who acts the piece with the seriousness it merits.”
    Arts Journal, Paul Levy, June 2016

    “Toby Spence has regained all the beauty his singing possessed before throat surgery and his heart-broken Idomeneo is a tour de force.”
    Independent, Michael Church, June 2016

    “Toby Spence made quite a youthful Idomeneo, vigorous and virile whilst reacting to the events around him with fiery intensity. His voice has developed in depth and strength, and he drew on this to bring interesting colours and drama into his performance, so his handling of the recitative was profoundly expressive. Overall it was a remarkable performance, sustained in its passion yet elegant in outlines and with a real strength at its core. The role made you wonder what other roles Spence might develop.”
    Planet Hugill, June 2016

    “It’s all rather gloriously sung: by Toby Spence’s sovereign Idomeneo, sounding full recovered from his recent thyroid cancer and delivering his bravura aria Fuor del mar, with panache.”
    The Sunday Times, Hugh Canning, June 2016

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    08 Dec 15 J STRAUSS II 'Die Fledermaus; Die Fledermaus
    Metropolitan Opera, NY

    “Toby Spence’s firm, light tenor made him an agreeable Eisenstein”
    NY Classical Review, Eric C. Simpson, December 2015 

    “The appealing cast includes the robust tenor Toby Spence”
    Anthony Tomassini, New York Times, December 2015 

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    11 Sep 15 ELGAR 'The Dream of Gerontius' Wiener Philharmoniker
    Royal Albert Hall (BBC Proms)

    “Toby Spence was ideal as the Soul of Gerontius, catching the way his fear and unknowing give way gradually to hope.”
    ★★★★ The Telegraph, Ivan Hewett, September 2015 

    “Spence’s emotional conviction carried this plausibly fragile and flawed Gerontius successfully to his maker.”
    The Arts Desk, Alexandra Coghlan, September 2015 

    “Toby Spence delivered the title role with a beautifully-projected sweetness of tone.”
    ★★★★★ The Independent, Michael Church, September 2015 

    “Toby Spence, a tenor of unbridled lyricism and boldness, made the most of Gerontius’s urgent Sanctus fortis, and, after the climactic brass outburst, found anxious release in the final “Take me away, and in the lowest deep/ There let me be”
    The Guardian, Fiona Maddocks, September 2015 

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    13 Jun 15 ELGAR 'The Dream of Gerontius' Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
    Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

    “Tenor Toby Spence, on his second tour of duty with the RLPO in three months, offered an easy, expansive and powerful performance in the central role of Gerontius.”
    Catherine Jones, Liverpool Echo, 13 June 2015 

    “Dream of Gerontius is an absolute triumph. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s closed their 175th season with a sublime and bold performance of Elgar’s oratorio.”
    The Guardian, Alfred Hickling, 16 June 2015 

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    23 Feb 15 MOZART 'Die Zauberflöte'
    Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

    “Toby Spence is in equally fine voice for his first Covent Garden Tamino, a role he assumed some years back in Nicholas Hytner’s lamented ENO production. The tenor’s plangent singing helps add a missing third dimension to what must surely be Mozart’s most lamely characterised leading man.”
    Mark Valencia, Whats On Stage, 24 February 2015 

    “Every inch the fairytale prince, Toby Spence delivers a clean and elegantly sung Tamino. He is partnered by the US soprano Janai Brugger … and like Spence she looks the part as well as proving a fluent actor.”
    George Hall, The Guardian, 24 February 2015 

    “Toby Spence, a veteran Tamino, was at last singing the role at Covent Garden, and here he was in heroic, lyrical full voice, eloquent in the passion of ‘Dies Bildnis’ and phrasing the music with effortless grace – he is the ideal truth-seeker.”
    Peter Reed, Classical Source, 23 February 2015 

    “Toby Spence proved an ardent Tamino, a little darker-hued than we often hear, and certainly none the worse for that.”
    Mark Berry, Seen and Heard International, 24 February 2015

    “Toby Spence, veteran of English National Opera’s long-running Flute, is a natural Tamino”
    Graham Rogers, The Stage, 24 February 2015 

    “It was great to hear Toby Spence in heroic voice as Tamino, ardently sung and sympathetically acted”
    Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, 24 February 2015 

    “Everybody in this latest cast has a reason to be there. At its head is Toby Spence’s Tamino, who is at once aristocratic and boyish, and sings with bright polish (and clear words — thank you).”
    Richard Fairman, Financial Times, 24 February 2015 

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    06 Oct 14 Mozart 'Die Zauberflöte'
    Metropolitan Opera, New York

    “Toby Spence sang Tamino with a pleasing, robust tenor. He showed a welcome willingness to leave well enough alone in the utterly simple opening lines of “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön,” allowing his voice to build up in ardor and depth over the remainder of the aria. He was excellent in ‘O ew’ge Nacht,’ where his voice meshed beautifully with those of the men’s chorus over halting dark strings.”
    Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times, 8 October 2014 

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    21 Aug 14 BRITTEN 'War Requiem'
    Royal Albert Hall (BBC Proms)

    “Lending a sharp emotional edge to the solemnity were the three soloists, who were ideally matched. Susan Gritton was delicately tender in the Lacrimosa (am I the only person who hears a touch of Gershwin in this piece?). Tenor Toby Spence and bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann were unaffectedly hearty during the poem about sharing a meal with Death, and in the final dialogue of the two dead soldiers they held us spellbound. The silence after the final chord felt as if it would never end.”
    The Telegraph, Ivan Hewett, 22 Aug 2014 

    “Owen’s angry verses were given plangent expression by Toby Spence, fixing notes with bitter, opaque tone before warming them with vibrato.”
    London Evening Standard, Barry Millington, 22 August 2014 

    “Owen’s poetry had committed advocates in soloists Toby Spence and Hanno Müller-Branchmann. Spence’s plaintively sweet-toned tenor touched the heart with “One ever hangs where shelled roads part”.
    The Observer, Stephen Pritchard, 24 August 2014 

    “Toby Spence’s appreciation of poetic form and expression was evident from the first phrase of ‘What passing-bells’, which interrupted the choir’s promise of eternal rest with impact but without undue melodrama. Spence’s every word was clear, even those lines which were articulated almost as a whisper. He vibrantly lifted Owen’s words from the page, and sang with affecting emotional commitment”
    Opera Today, Claire Seymour, 22 August 2014 

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    19 Jun 14 BRITTEN Serenade for tenor horn and strings San Francisco Symphony
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco

    “the other star of the performance, tenor Toby Spence cast a spell over the hall … Spence’s open-throated, gorgeous singing revealed a thrilling mastery of the difficult combination of floating high notes and resounding chest notes. Having beat thyroid cancer a few years ago, the tenor’s voice and artistry are their peak.”
    Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice, 20 June 2014 

    “The tenor for last night’s performance was Toby Spence, singing with a thorough understanding of each of the six poems Britten had set.”
    Stephen Smoliar, Examiner.com, 20 June 2014 

    “Certainly the Serenade, which has not been heard in Davies in more than 20 years, got the performance of a lifetime from tenor Toby Spence and the Symphony’s principal hornist, Robert Ward. Crystalline, witty and full of tender, mysterious emotion, this was a reading that brought out every nuance and every bit of majesty in the score. … Spence boasts all the clarity of tone and diction that made Britten’s partner, the tenor Peter Pears, an ideal interpreter of his music – but in addition to those qualities, he sings with a combination of vigor and warmth that contrasts with the slight chill of Pears’ virtuosity.”
    Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 20 June 2014

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    27 Apr 14 STRAUSS Die Fledermaus Philharmonia Orchestra
    Royal Festival Hall, London

    “Toby Spence was a wide-eyed, supple-voiced Eisenstein, revelling in the farcical business”
    Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack, 27 April 2014 

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    01 Oct 13 MAHLER Das Lied von der Erde (CD)
    Royal Festival Hall, London

    “Recorded at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, it finds the tenor Toby Spence in ringing voice for the demanding Drinking Song, which he delivers as effortlessly as the incomparable Fritz Wunderlich. He makes light work of Of Youth, while the forced jollity of The Drunkard in Spring comes across forcefully.”
    Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 29 September 2013 

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    12 Sep 13 SZYMANOWSKI Symphonies Nos 3 & 4; Stabat Mater (CD)
    London Symphony Orchestra, LSO Live

    “Toby Spence impresses with his ardent delivery of the taxing tenor part”
    Barry Forshaw, Classical CD Choice, 12 September 2013 

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    10 Aug 13 ELGAR 'The Dream of Gerontius'
    Gloucester Cathedral, UK

    “Toby Spence, apparently fully recovered from throat surgery, looks an unlikely old man close to death, but his clean lyric tenor seems to have found new reserves of heft”
    Hugh Canning, 11 August 2013 

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    13 Jul 13 BRITTEN Serenade for tenor, horn and strings
    Cheltenham Town Hall, UK

    “a fine performance of Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, featuring tenor Toby Spence”
    Rian Evans, The Guardian, 15 July 2013 

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    02 Jul 13 BRITTEN 'War Requiem' City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
    St Paul's Cathedral, London

    “Toby Spence sang his “Dona nobis pacem” with the purity of a choirboy”
    Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 26 June 2013 

    “Toby Spence, back on tremendous form after recent illness, beautifully captured Britten’s pacifist anger in the tenor solos.”
    Tim Ashley, The Guardian, 26 June 2013 

    “Rhythmic rigour and a sense of despair focused Toby Spence’s tenor”
    Hilary Finch, The Times, 27 June 2013 

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    20 Jun 13 BRITTEN 'Gloriana'
    Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

    “Toby Spence makes a credibly sympathetic figure of the solipsistic Essex, full of a vigorous vitality which is undermined by maudlin melancholy. After serious health concerns, Spence is almost back to his best. Albeit weak and unpredictable, Essex’s devotion to the Queen is not in doubt. By turns tender, ebullient and defiant, Spence’s Essex is petulant, querulous but also truthful, winning our heart with his delicately expressive, self-revelatory second lute song, ‘Happy were we’, while arousing our distrust by – a theatrical masterstroke by Jones – surreptitiously and presumptuously usurping the unoccupied throne, when the royal party has departed after the ceremonial entertainments which close Act 2. The rapid blackout exacerbates our unease regarding his audacious intentions.”
    Claire Seymour, Opera Today, 22 June 2013 

    “Toby Spence, back in top voice after a serious illness as the very best and fullest of Britten tenor”
    David Nice, The Arts Desk, 21 June 2013 

    “Toby Spence, as Essex, has regained all his pristine vocal lustre.”
    Michael Church, The Independent, 21 June 2013 

    “Toby Spence’s lithe, boyish, ambitious Essex is a wonderfully rounded portrayal”
    Michael Tanner, The Spectator, 29 June 2013 

    “Toby Spence is a dashing Essex”
    Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 30 June 2013

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    17 Jan 13 Recital with Carrie-Ann Matheson
    Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, USA

    “Vocal Arts D.C. presented […] the first local recital of Toby Spence […]. The English tenor’s fine performance at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater brought that mysterious Czech song cycle to life, as well as Robert Schumann’s poignant ‘Dichter¬liebe,’ in the original high keys … Spence seemed at ease, glowing with all of his […] charismatic confidence […]. His voice had heroic fullness when he needed it, including a resonant high A in Schumann’s ‘Ich grolle nicht,’ taken here at a slower tempo to accentuate the sense of bitter disbelief in the text.Spence’s take on ‘Dichter¬liebe’ emphasized a jaw-clenched defiance over outright rage, aided by the avid storytelling of pianist Carrie-Ann Matheson, a narrative quality so important in this cycle, in which the piano is a co-starring character. Spence took his time with many of the tempi, giving a rueful quality to ‘Hor’ich das ¬Liedchen klingen’ and a stark, seething tenseness to ‘Ich hab’ in Traum geweinet.'”
    Washington Post, Charles T. Downey, 17 January 2013



‘The Tempest’ (Antonio/Ferdinand)

‘Vanessa’ (Anatol)


‘Fidelio’ (Florestan)


‘La damnation de Faust’ (Faust)

‘Candide’ (title role)

‘Billy Budd’ (Captain Vere)
‘Curlew River’ (Madwoman)
‘Death in Venice’ (Aschenbach)
‘Gloriana’ (Robert Devereux)
‘Peter Grimes’ (title role)
‘Rape of Lucretia’ (Male Chorus)
‘Turn of the Screw’ (Peter Quint)

‘Jenufa’ (Laca)

‘Osud’ (Živný)

‘Satyagraha’ (Ghandi)

‘Iphigénie en Tauride’ (Pylades)

‘Faust’ (title role)

‘Il ritorno d’Ulisse’ (Ulisse)
‘L’incoronazione di Poppea’ (Nero)

‘Così fan tutte’ (Ferrando)
‘Don Giovanni’ (Don Ottavio)
‘Idomeneo’ (title role)
‘La Clemenza di Tito’ (Tito)

‘La belle Helene’ (Paris)

‘Moses und Aron’ (Aron)

‘Die Fledermaus’ (Eisenstein)

‘Die Schweigsame Frau’ (Henry Morosus)
‘Salome’ (Herod)

‘Oedipus Rex’ (title role)
‘The Rake’s Progress’ (Tom Rakewell)

‘Eugene Onegin’ (Lensky)


‘Der Fliegender Holländer (Erik)
‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (David)
‘Rheingold’ (Loge)
‘Siegfried’ (Mime)



‘St Matthew Passion’
‘St John Passion’
‘B minor Mass’

‘Missa Solemnis’
Symphony no.9
‘Christus am Oelberg’

‘Grand Messe des Mortes’
‘L’enfant du Christ’
‘Les Nuits d’ete’


‘Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings’
‘Les Illuminations’
‘War Requiem’
‘Ballad of Heroes’
‘Cantata Misericordium’
‘Saint Nicholas’

‘Mass in F minor’
‘Mass in D minor’
‘Te Deum’

‘Das Lied von der Glocke’

‘Song of the High Hills’

‘There was a Child’

‘The Dream of Gerontius’

‘Dies Natalis’

‘La resurrezione’

‘Mass in B-flat Major’
‘The Creation’

‘The Diary of One Who Disappeared’

‘Grands Motets’

‘Paroles Tissées’

‘Das Lied von der Erde’
‘Das klagende Lied’
‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’

‘Die erste Walpurgisnacht’

‘Mass in C minor’
‘Vesperae Solennes de Confessore’

‘Ode to St Cecilia’

Les Boréades

‘Stabat Mater’

‘Offertorium for tenor, choir and orchestra’


‘Symphony no.3’

‘A Child of Our Time’



I Wasn’t Scared of Death – Though the Cancer was Very Advanced
Anna Picard / The Times / January 2018
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