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Profile: Tim Mead, singer


Can you describe your job in one sentence?

Singing as high as a girl (Tim's a countertenor), whilst playing some of the toughest men in Baroque opera! Or maybe, play time for which I am fortunate enough to be paid!


What do you love about working in opera?

I think it is the fact that opera is constantly challenging you. Not just vocally, but physically and mentally too. Every production brings something new for you to master, be it an obvious skill such as a dance routine or something more subtle. For instance, my role in Orlando is played pretty straight, but we've spent a lot of time exploring the physicality and responses of someone descending into madness, whilst singing some of the most demanding music Handel ever wrote! I have really enjoyed getting deeper into the theatre side of opera over the last 5 years or so, something I never thought I'd say when I seemed unable to even walk across a stage whilst singing in my first ever opera rehearsal during my college days!


10 years ago did you imagine you would be working for this company?

10 years ago I had just started my undergraduate degree at Cambridge. At that time I had no real idea about what I wanted to do after I graduated and, although singing was a major part of my life (King's College Choir is pretty much a full-time job!) I had only just begun taking singing lessons. It was only 3 years later when I found myself at the Royal College of Music that I started to even have the idea that opera could be a career for me. I was never the sort of person who grew up dreaming of being an opera singer, but I knew that I wanted to do something in music. So, in some respects, becoming an opera singer has been a happy accident! My first ever opera experience was actually in Glasgow back in 1993, when I sang the role of Spirit of the Boy in the RSAMD's production of Britten's Curlew River. So it is great to be back here almost 20 years later in the title role of a professional production in a theatre that is just a few metres away from the place I got my first taste of opera!


What has been your most memorable opera experience so far?

I have been fortunate to have had so many different experiences in opera since my professional opera debut in 2005. The moment that sticks out, however, came in the summer of 2006 when I was working at Glyndebourne as an understudy to the celebrated American countertenor David Daniels, in David McVicar's great production of Giulio Cesare. As an understudy you always dream that your chance will come to get on stage, especially in a role as significant as Cesare. So when I got the call that I was needed to fill in for David for one show I was, of course, incredibly nervous but also raring to go! I had learnt so much from watching David rehearse over the previous 4 weeks that I felt very well prepared, even though the task was a daunting one. The performance seemed over as soon as it had begun, but I'll never forget it.


What do you do when you are not working?

Not as much as I would like! I always have such good intentions for my time off, but sadly few come to fruition. Not working means, for me, being at home in London as much as possible and hanging out with friends. Other than just relaxing, I like watching movies and going to the theatre, which I guess isn't too far removed from the day job! At the moment, I'm trying to make myself more accomplished in the kitchen, with limited success!


What three things might people be surprised to learn about you?

  • I must be one of the only people under the age of 30 who doesn't have an iPod and I don't ever really listen to music. I think this might have something to do with the fact that music is always in my head anyway!
  • I have a secret ambition to play a character in Eastenders one day! I love British TV and miss it so much when I'm working abroad!
  • I'm one quarter Scottish! My grandfather was originally from Wigtown, before moving down south to settle in Essex.


What is your favourite place in the world to be?

It's an obvious answer, but at home in London. I've spent most of my career abroad, but have always kept a flat in London. It's a great city to come home to and I can't really imagine ever living anywhere else. It's also where all my friends are, which is probably the most important thing.