Nikolai Schukoff is a forthright man: he does not beat about the bush, he takes a stand. This charming and astute singer, who describes himself as “a real Austro-Hungarian mix”, is currently one of the most sought-after tenors ever. A heldentenor, to be more precise: certainly, a rare species. At a young age, the tenor from Graz was already being praised by critics for his “youthful charm” and “darkly velvet voice.” In particular, it is thanks to Schukoff’s thoughtful and deliberate selection of roles and, above all, to his intensive study of each chosen role that his career has not led him into a vocal cul-de-sac like so many tenors before him. When starting out, Schukoff studied baritone arias, but then – as he says – a certain “love of heights” began to intervene. What he considers important when singing? “I try to tell a story when I sing. For me, language and articulation are very important.”
When he is studying a role, the bookworm inside Nikolai Schukoff makes an appearance. “I do my reading by the kilo, because I want to know in exactly what kind of situation the character who is singing has got himself involved.” The tenor considers himself to be an artist with many interests; and in order to be regarded as such, one simply has to “really have a wide-ranging knowledge of opera as synthesis of the arts.”
Back in 2005, it became clear that Schukoff thinks and acts with an eye to the future, with almost prophetic abilities, when he said, “I want to have a long career. I really want to take it step by step. I feel that right now my voice is developing very strongly, and as long as I do not feel I am ‘there’ yet... I would like to continue to be the ‘tenor of the day’ for a long time!” Less than a year later, he had his international breakthrough in the role of Siegmund, which has opened the doors of the great opera-houses to the free-lance singer: now he excels world-wide in roles of which he had probably never even dreamed when starting out on his career. At times a love of heights can definitely pay off.