Toad Lane Concerts: Nicola Mills soprano

Date published: 23 June 2022

‘Opera for the people’

Nicola Mills is a soprano on a mission. As she puts it, ‘Nothing makes me happier than singing for people. A lady gave me free singing lessons when I was 15 and introduced me to opera, and I’ve been devoted to singing ever since... My life is about singing for people wherever I go, and I love what I do’.

Originally an Oldham lass, Nicola studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama for 6 years, going on to work for opera companies around Europe for 10 years.

In between songs, she told us of her journey in international singing and disillusion with the opera house to more direct engagement with communities.

As Nicola puts it: "Whilst I was living in Belgium, I started my own initiative calling myself ‘The Down to Earth Diva’ which eventually became ‘Opera for the People’."

In New York she developed her own show, ‘A Soprano and a Suitcase’. Her latest project is a tribute to Julie Andrews called ‘A Spoonful of Julie’.

During lockdowns, Nicola found that using the busking experience she gained in New York and elsewhere, giving impromptu performances in the open air helped her to engage with a wider range of the public – the Maria Callas of Covid.

Getting the audience to choose the programme themselves from her ‘menu’ and using top quality backing tracks were both firsts for Toad Lane Concerts and worked a treat.

Puccini’s emotionally charged ‘O mio babbino caro’, and ‘Madam Butterfly’, Rossini’s ravishing ‘Una voce poco fa’ with beautifully articulated florid passages and an impressive range, and finishing with Verdi’s ‘Brindisi’ (Drinking Song) demonstrated that Nicola is a top-notch classical soprano with panache who would grace any stage. From coloratura to crossover, songs such as Yesterday, Angels and Barcelona (where she duetted with the backing track) showed that she also has a popular touch (in the best sense of the phrase). Added to this characterful Gilbert & Sullivan and Mary Poppins and you have a great all-round vocal entertainer. The audience were delighted and gave a well-deserved standing ovation, demanding a return visit.

The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday at 12.30pm at St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane, Rochdale, OL16 1DZ. Entrance fee is £6. No refreshments available now, but the venue is Covid-19 compliant. Contact 01706 648872 for further information.

To see details of forthcoming Toad Lane Concerts, click here.

Dr Joe Dawson

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