In 1967, Nikolay Kopylov entered the Vocal Department of the Khabarovsk Arts School. As a first-year student, he joined the Opera Company of the Khabarovsk Operetta Theatre. In 1973, he entered the Ural State Mussorgsky Conservatoire in Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), where he studied under supervision of Yan Vutiras. In 1976–1982, he was the soloist of the Sverdlovsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. In 1982, he completed his postgraduate study at the Ural Conservatoire.
In 1982, he was invited to the Leningrad State Academic Maly Theatre (Mikhailovsky Theatre), where he has performed leading baritone parts in Borodin's Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride and The Golden Cockerel, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, Verdi's Rigoletto, Petrov's Peter the Great, Gounod's Faust, Strauss's Die Fledermaus, Bizet's Carmen, Kalman's Silva, Alexander Tchaikovsky's Les trois mousquetaires, Slonimsky's Mary Stuart, Khrennikov's Dorothea and The Naked King, Shebalin's The Taming of the Shrew, Kobekin's Pugachev, Landovsky's Le Fou, Kholminov's The Brothers Karamazov (productions by Stanislav Gaudasinsky).
Nikolay Kopylov has also performed Rodrigue in Verdi's Don Carlos, Don Giovanni and Mazetto in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Tartuffe in Michem's Tartuffe, Figaro in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. In 2013, he performed Bosun in the Russian première of Britten's Billy Budd.
Nikolay Kopylov has a large concert repertoire and appears on the stages of the St Petersburg Philharmonic Society, the Academic Capella, and the Oktyabrsky Concert Hall among others with orchestras under batons of renowned conductors. He has recorded more than 10 albums with arias, romances, folk songs and songs from the World War II.
For 25 years, Nikolay Kopylov has toured to Italy, France, Germany, England, Scotland, Belgium, Holland, Greece, Portland, Argentine, America, South Korea, and Japan.
Nikolay Kopylov is a professor of the St Petersburg State Herzen University. His students appear on Russian and foreign stages.
Nowadays, as a principal soloist of the Mikhailovsky Opera, Nikolay Kopylov performs leading baritone parts in the operas by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Gioachino Rossini, Pietro Mascagni, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky.