Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I don’t think I was really inspired by one person or one thing. Music has been a big part of my life as long as I can remember. I was a chorister at St Alban’s Cathedral and I loved playing the piano as a child. I then went on to be a choral scholar at St John’s College, Cambridge, and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music. I always loved music and have been continuously inspired by so many talented mentors and teachers. I just seemed to keep going until it became a career!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Being away from home a lot is the thing I find most difficult in the job. Often you’re away months at a time and that will inevitably mean missing family and friends.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
A fairly recent recording of Cesti’s La Dori for the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music. That was extremely special, especially working with Ottavio Dantone. The performance of which I am most proud was as Albert Herring for Buxton International Festival. The cast was incredible and I had a wonderful time from start to finish.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Bach and Britten are my two favourite composers to perform.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I like to read around whatever show I am working on. This can help inform musical and character decisions.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love performing in Birmingham Symphony Hall. It has an extraordinary acoustic and architecturally is a real joy to sing in.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
Education is key. It’s all about teaching children from a young age that classical music isn’t something strange or scary. In Germany, for example, school children are taken to the theatre as part of their curriculum. At the weekends they go with their parents to “Children’s Opera” as they would the cinema. As a result they grow up with classical music as part of their daily lives. It’s something that I think we should encourage here in the UK.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The first time I evangelised Bach’s St John Passion. I was extremely nervous, but it was the most wonderful experience to perform.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Being able to tell a new story every time you walk onto the stage.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Be yourself. Let nobody take away your musical truth.
You’re performing at this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival. Tell us more about what you’ll be doing.
I will be singing one of two tenor roles in Awakening Shadow with Nova Opera in the festival. I am really excited about this work as this is the first time I will perform a piece written by two composers. Luke Styles has composed music to work around Benjamin Britten’s Five Canticles to create one large dramatic work. It’s a very impressive feat to write music that is both sympathetic to the Britten and entirely Styles’ own, the sound world is incredibly evocative.
What is your most treasured possession?
My Sprocker Spaniel, Bertie.
On 4 July tenor Bradley Smith performs in Awakening Shadow, a chamber opera by Benjamin Britten and Luke Styles, at this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival. More information
Bradley Smith studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, and the Royal Academy of Music. While at the Academy he was a prize-winning finalist in the Joan Chissel Prize for Schumann Lieder, winner of the Blythe-Buesst Aria Prize, and winner of the Tom Hammond Opera Prize.
His career has enabled a comfortable balance between the theatre and the concert platform. In his oratorio work he is regularly engaged to sing the Evangelist and tenor solos in the Bach passions, Handel’s Messiah, and other repertory staples with major orchestras internationally including the Hanover Band. Recent venues include St John’s Smith Square, the Cadogan Hall, King’s Place, the Birmingham Symphony Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, Theater an der Wien, the Barbican, the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, and the Théâtre Champs-Élysées. Recent performances include Britten’s Serenade for Tenor and Horn, Schumann’s Liederkreis Op. 39, Fauré’s La bonne chanson at King’s Place, Britten’s War Requiem, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio for the Odensee Symphony Orchestra.