Nicholas Payne has worked in opera since he joined Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House in 1968 for the final two years of the David Webster/Georg Solti period. After a spell at the Arts Council of Great Britain during the early 1970s, he worked for four different UK opera companies over 27 consecutive years. He was financial controller of Welsh National Opera in Cardiff, where his responsibilities also included labour relations, marketing, planning and programmes. He was general director of Leeds-based Opera North for over 10 years before returning to London as director of the Royal Opera Covent Garden in the 1990s. He was subsequently appointed general director of English National Opera.
Since 2003, Payne has served as director of Opera Europa, during which he has built up a membership of 110 opera companies and opera festivals from 33 countries and has established it as the leading professional opera association in Europe. He has served on the jury of several international singing competitions and written and broadcast regularly on operatic and general arts subjects.