Artist of the Week: Adam Temple-Smith

British Tenor Makes His Role Debut as Tom Rakewell at the Grange Festival

By Francisco Salazar

This week, the Grange Festival is set to open a new production of “The Rake’s Progress,” the final showcase of the season. Among the cast members is Adam Temple-Smith,  a rising star in the opera world.

Throughout the past years, Temple-Smith has performed with Opera Holland Park, West Green House Opera, the Southrepps International Festival, Garsington Opera, Internazionale d’Arte Festival in Montepulciano, and many houses in Germany, where is based. With the Grange Festival, he will make his role debut as Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky’s beloved work.

Here is a short interview with the tenor.

OperaWire: Tell me about the role of Tom Rakewell and how do you see the character.

Adam Temple-Smith: The role of Tom is one that I’ve wanted to sing for many years. In fact his opening aria “Here I stand” was one of the first arias I learned as a student, singing it in my audition for British Youth Opera. Tom is a fascinating and engaging character to bring to life. He is a young man with the world at his feet and yet he manages to squander it all, seemingly making the wrong decision at every available opportunity. I think it’s easy to see him as weak, unfaithful, foolish, and ultimately deserving of his fate. However, I want to try and show a more sympathetic character, a naive boy who is swept away by the forces around him and unable to resist the malevolent figure of Nick Shadow who is constantly there to try and lead him astray.

OW: What are some of the most challenging aspects of singing Stravinsky’s music and what is your favorite part of the work?

ATS: I think it’s a mistake to think of Stravinsky’s music as modern or angular. Tom is a role which requires a similar approach vocally to any lyric opera, it must always sound classically elegant and the singer must have a broad color palate available to bring the different sides of his personality to life. Having said that, Stravinsky’s music is not simple and learning all of the complicated rhythmic structures is no small undertaking. Finally, this is a piece that asks an awful lot of the cast not just as singers and musicians but also as actors in order to bring W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman’s wonderful libretto to life.

Easily the standout moments in the opera for me are the final two scenes: the graveyard where Tom has to wager his soul in a game of cards against Shadow and the following scene when he is reunited with Anne in Bedlam.  The high stakes drama of the graveyard followed by the absolutely heartbreaking scene with Anne are both a real rollercoaster dramatically and emotionally.  I’m really lucky to be sharing the stage with two fabulous singers – Michael Mofidian as Shadow and Alexandra Oomens as Anne – whose performances bring incredible depth and nuance to these pivotal moments.

OW: Tell me about the experience of working at the Grange Festival and how is the experience different from other houses you work at?

ATS: I’ve very much enjoyed the experience of working at The Grange Festival so far.  One of the really wonderful aspects of this project is the amount of time we have been able to give to the music. Working with our conductor Tom Primrose has been an extremely rewarding experience as he has an incredibly detailed knowledge of the score and a remarkable understanding of how to work with singers. In the next few days we will be moving out of the studio and into the theatre at The Grange. I’m very excited to get onto the set and finally bring this opera to life!

OW: How has it been to work with Antony McDonald and what have you learned from him in your process of constructing your character?

ATS: It’s been a great experience working with Antony. His vision of the piece is incredibly clear and he has created a beautiful set for us to play in. He’s also an extremely collaborative director and so I’ve been able to bring my own ideas and opinions into the room as we’ve created our version of Tom. It’s been a very freeing creative experience to be able to slowly build up this role with his support and guidance.


For more on Temple-Smith, here he is performing music by Jonathan Dove.


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