Toby Spence is a British tenor who established a solid career, particularly in the fields of early opera and concert singing, in the late 1990s, before broadening his repertoire in the new century.
He was a choral scholar at New College, Oxford, graduating with honors and then attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. While still a student, he made his debut at London's Barbican Centre singing in Sibelius' incidental music to The Tempest with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi; sung with the RIAS Berlin in Handel's Theodora; toured with the Mark Morris Dance Group Dance Umbrella singing in Brahms' Liebeslieder-Walzer; made his Wigmore Hall, London, recital debut in the Schubertiade Series; and sang at the Cheltenham and Brighton Festivals. He also won a scholarship to study in 1995 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago.
While in the United States he made a concert debut with the Cleveland Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnanyi and then, in the same debut season, appeared with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Richard Hickox; with John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra; and other UK orchestras. Also that year, he sang in two major oratorio performances: Haydn's The Creation and Bach's St. Matthew Passion, both with Frans Brüggen and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century.
His operatic debut with the Welsh National Opera also took place in the 1995/1996 season, singing the role of Idamante in Mozart's Idomeneo, which he repeated at the Bavarian State Opera. That was quickly and steadily followed by several other opera debuts in Europe. He created the role of Ferdinand in Thomas Adès The Tempest in 2004 at Covent Garden, and in the 2005/2006 season first took on the role of Tom Rakewell, which has become one of his favored roles.
He has appeared in concert with many prestigious orchestras and conductors, including the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Gergiev, the San Francisco Symphony with Tilson Thomas conducting, and at the BBC Proms concerts. He also performs recitals, when his schedule allows it.
In 2011, Spence was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the treatment for which involved surgery very close to his vocal cords. Luckily, with rehabilitation, he regained his voice and was performing again in Adès' The Tempest a year later.
His recordings include a Philips release of the St. Matthew Passion performance with Brüggen, and Mahler's Lied von der Erde with Nézet-Séguin. He has appeared on the Deutsche Grammophon, Hyperion, EMI, Decca, and BMG-RCA labels.