It never hurts an performerto have a little self-love. Take tenor Toby Spence, limbering up to sing the youthful David in the revival of Graham Vick's excellent production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Covent Garden. David is not a crucial role in the drama, but a very crucial one in the musical fabric. "As Tony Pappano said to me," Spence explains, "he's the bubbles in the champagne – a charming, youthful spirit, a teenager. Unlike the other characters he doesn't take himself seriously. When he appears, the message to the audience is that they can sit back and relax."
And since the boyish Spence is 42 going on 22, he agrees that he's well cast. He approvingly surveys his physique: "I think I'm lucky."
When I meet him, he's recovering from the throat infection that reduced him to walking on for two performances in Deborah Warner's Eugene Onegin at ENO. This was a loss to the show since he was the best thing in it – the thinking he does around each role he plays being the key. He's now thinking about Wagner, and about the perennial tainting of Die Meistersinger with its Nazi past. "It's time people moved on and accepted the idea of German pride without Nazi connotations. It's pitiful, the way people still keep writing books about the Nazis –what more is there to say?"
'Die Meistersinger', Royal Opera House, London WC2 (www.roh.org.uk) 19 December to 8 January 2012