In Canadian Opera Company’s Carmen, Simone Osborne plays Michaёla, the good girl to the opera’s eponymous Gypsy. The young singer has taken on an important role that when done well, should highlight the forsaken lover’s innocence, vulnerability and courage. Sharing the same social and moral roots, Michaёla represents the type of woman Don José should be with. The character’s defining moment is her aria, “Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante,” and by the end of the opera, the audience should witness the strength that she possesses.
We caught up with the beautifully luminous soprano to discuss her role debut, the beauty of the music and all things Carmen. This is Osborne’s second go-round with the opera, she played Frasquita, the lighter soprano role, during her second year of the Young Artist’s Programme. “It was my first introduction to the role of Michaёla, and I dreamed of singing it one day because the music is so beautiful and melodical.”
What is it about Carmen, that keeps audiences coming back?
The melodies and music of Carmen is accessible in the best possible way, not in a pandering or simple way, it’s just a great story with great music start to finish.
If Carmen is cast well, you can see it 50 times and still love it, because the performers really make this opera sensational, which always makes for a great evening at the theatre. The nice thing about both casts here in Toronto is that our performers are really, really interesting and such great singers. You could see both casts and have a completely different experience. And who doesn’t love seeing a strong independent woman on stage, or for the men in the audience, who doesn’t want to see an incredibly sexy, brilliant, woman protagonist?
What makes this COC production of Carmen so special?
So much! It will be one of those productions where you can’t believe that everything is as great as it is. The Carmens are so strong, and the tenors are strong, the bass baritone and baritone are fantastic. We’ve got great material and the production, and director that the COC has put together just bumps it up to that next level that makes you want to come back again and again. Director Joel Ivany has breathed new life into the piece and the performances are astonishing. And of course, the ending is unbelievable. Particularly Anita and Russell (who are in my cast), the final scene, between Carmen and Don José is worth the price of admission itself.
What’s your favorite thing about playing Michaёla? What makes you happy, what brings you joy?
The music is so beautiful, it’s such a gift to be able to sing these melodies, and my duet with Don José is so beautiful, and pure, and full of love. Russell Thomas has such an incredible voice that it makes me sing better when I’m up there with him. It’s a real joy and one of the highlights of my first Michaёla experience, to be able to sing with him.
The aria is beautifully melodic and is something I’ve loved since I was a young singer. It’s like a training bra aria that all sopranos want to sing. What I particularly love, is that Joel is allowing me to be a strong Michaёla, not wallpaper, or a weak doormat, I’m quite strong in my own right and that makes the whole character so appealing to me. Just because Carmen is such a strong character, doesn’t mean that Michaёla shouldn’t also be, in her own way.
So what can COC Carmen audience members expect?
Expect to experience singing that will take your breath away. I forget to breathe sometimes when I’m listening. It’s a great story with incredible music performed by some of the best singers in the world, and some of the best singing actors. It’s a real piece of theatre, with a new energy, vibrancy and immediacy, without being way outside of the box. This Carmen contains everything I love about opera—performers that can go above and beyond—no one is hindered by technical or acting issues. It’s a full-force performance by everybody which is always exciting.
Carmen is on stage April 12 through May 16. Visit the COC for more info.