During his musical studies, Nicholas sang mostly in a high baritone but felt that somehow the use of his voice in that register was limited. It was only later that his voice teacher, Alissa Grimaldi, heard his easy facility with head voice and falsetto and suggested he switch to countertenor. “From that moment, everything fell into place for me.”
Nicholas (34) grew up in New York, partly in the Hudson Valley and partly in New York City. He studied music at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and at the Manhattan School of Music, where he received his B.A. He went on to earn a Master's degree in music at Hunter College, graduating in 2007.
Doesn’t singing countertenor limit your repertoire?
“A lot of people think that, but nothing could be further from the truth. Countertenor is used mostly in early and baroque music, both of which I have always loved, but baroque especially is coming back these days in full force. So there is a wide repertory there.
“But I also get the chance to sing a lot of modern music, like Der Zippelfaggotist! The countertenor voice type has a unique character - it’s a bit mysterious. Is is male or female or castrato? Or is it otherworldly? In the baroque era, there was a hierarchy in voices: the King would have the highest voice. So I get to play everything from a king to a troll crawling under a rock! In Magnificat I sing the alto part, and in Der Zippelfaggotist I play the young student, Geyersbach. I think a tenor has less choice, as they tend to be typecast.”
Nicholas performed Bach’s Magnificat once before, early in his career. He loves Bach and is often invited to sing concert music, but he does mainly opera, which takes up a great deal of his schedule, not only with performances but with much more extensive rehearsals than a concert requires. Opera obviously provides more opportunity for acting, with movement, gesture, costumes, makeup, sets and fellow actors. But in both opera and concert music, he tries to excel in being a vocal actor, exploring what colors are available to his voice. “There is so much you can do with your voice: different emotions, feeling, brightness or darkness of vowels, articulation. How long you hold a consonant can change the meaning of your text, which of course you need to know and understand perfectly. All this can be brought into concert singing even if you’re just standing there, to bring out the dramatic elements in the music. Just hitting the right notes is not enough: every good concert should have the intention and the expression that will connect with the audience.”
Winner of the Nico Castel Mastersinger award, Nicholas Tamagna is a countertenor singing internationally in opera and concert, and makes his debut on the main stage of Carnegie Hall with The Cecilia Chorus of New York. In 2017-18 he will make his Dutch debut singing the title role of Hasse's Siroe with the Nederlandse Reisopera, in joint production with Staatstheater Oldenburg in Germany. He will also sing the role of the Refugee in James Darrah's production of Jonathan Dove's Flight with Opera Omaha. In 2016 he made his Australian debut in a special presentation of Philip Glass’ Akhnaten, with David Kram, of Opera Australia, conducting. He is a regular soloist with the baroque orchestra Poème Harmonique in France, performing at Opéra de Vichy, de Rouen, and the Opéra Royal de Versailles. In 2015, Mr. Tamagna returned to the Badisches Staatstheater Händel-Festspiele in Karlsruhe, Germany as Oronte in Benjamin Lazar’s critically acclaimed production of Händel’s Riccardo Primo. He also sang for Theater Münster in Kobi van Regensburg’s production of Händel's Ariodante as Polinesso, and in operamission NYC's production of Händel's Rinaldo as Goffredo. In 2014, he made his European debuts in Germany with the Badisches Staatstheater and in France with Opéra de Rouen and Opéra Royal de Versailles. Discography credits include his Akhnaten in Philip Glass’ Akhnaten with Indianapolis Opera and Indiana University in live broadcast in 2013, le Poème Harmonique's Dido and Aeneas on DVD, and ¡Sacabuche!: Early Italian Motets, Arias and Duets on the Canadian label ATMA Classique. He will be featured on Le Poème Harmonique's next album in 2017. An active concert soloist, Mr. Tamagna has sung in renowned venues including the Weill Recital Hall of Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, and Avery Fischer Hall.