Rachel Nicholls

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Nicholls is one of the most prominent dramatic sopranos on the contemporary British scene.
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British soprano Rachel Nicholls is a prominent dramatic soprano, specializing in Wagner and other opera composers of the late 19th century. She has also sung Baroque music and is familiar to many through her appearances on recordings in conductor Masaaki Suzuki's Bach cantata cycle. Nicholls was born in Bedford, England, in 1975. She attended a local school whose strong music department she has credited for her success, telling the Independent that "quite a few of us have made fantastic careers in the music world thanks to our teacher there." Bedford offered a youth opera group that mounted a fully staged operatic production each year. She was also able to attend classes in the junior department of London's Trinity College of Music, about an hour away. Nicholls attended the University of York, studying French, but she was drawn to opera and switched to voice studies at the Royal College of Music in 1998. Her teacher there was Kathleen Livingstone. A second prize in 2001 at the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Competition, held at highly visible Wigmore Hall, got her noticed, and she began to find major operatic roles. At first these were mostly in Baroque opera and choral music; she appeared in several parts with the English Touring Opera, including Erismena in Cavalli's opera of the same name and Ginevra in Handel's Ariodante. She played Armida in Handel's Rinaldo at the Edinburgh Festival and recorded Bach's B minor Mass with Suzuki and his Bach Collegium Japan in 2007. Nicholls worked with major Baroque conductors including Jean-Claude Malgoire and John Eliot Gardiner. Later, especially after she continued voice studies with the Wagner specialist Dame Anne Evans, she began to gravitate toward dramatic roles of the late Romantic era. Primary among these have been the operas of Wagner; an early breakthrough in this field was an appearance as Brünnhilde in performances of Wagner's Ring operas at the Longborough Festival Opera. At the Royal Opera in London she appeared in Parsifal as a Flower Maiden. Nicholls has appeared at London's Covent Garden as Prilepa in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades and as Echo in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, among other non-Wagnerian roles. She has also been in demand for appearances in major choral performances including those of Verdi's Requiem at London's Cadogan Hall and Haydn's Mass in D minor ("Lord Nelson") with the Huddersfield Choral Society. Nicholls teaches voice at the University of Huddersfield and serves as a performance coach at her alma mater, the University of York. She has made several operatic recordings and in 2019 she appeared under conductor Martyn Brabbins with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a recording of Michael Tippett's Symphony No. 3.