Simone Osborne describes herself as a “young Canadian soprano traveling the world to sing high notes.” In 2013 she did just that, wowing international audiences in Japan, Switzerland, Dubai and Paris. She moved to Toronto five years ago from Vancouver, making a big splash in 2008 as one of the youngest winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in New York City. Her career has soared ever since.
On February 2nd Ms. Osborne takes on the role of Oscar in the Canadian Opera Company’s, A Masked Ball. This classic Verdi opera has been contemporized, taking place in an imagined American South, which draws on the political landscape of the Kennedy-era.
I thought it was fitting for us to start at King West’s Home of the Brave, knocking back a few Bourbon spiked cocktails. Throughout the evening we devoured endless plates of finger-licking-good Americana munchies: Chicken and Waffles covered in spicy maple and crispy Maryland Crab Cakes.
When you think of Jackie Kennedy what comes to mind? Simone gushes, “Heaven! She was glamorous, yet so refined.” Ms. Osborne lives and breathes these very character traits, tossing back her lush brown hair with a cool calm and throwing in a few giggles when the time is ripe.
When asked about singing on stage in this re-imagined classic she responded with passionate panache, “audiences will love the modern interpretation, it stays true to the music and the themes that Verdi was writing about. Clearly what moved him to write 300 pages of music for an entire orchestra and cast of singers.”
Where does Toronto’s globetrotting opera belle spend her time when in town? You’ll likely find her at the Soho House. She gushes, “I curl up by the piano and can study for hours on end. Because I travel so much for work, to be in a place where lots of my friends and colleagues frequent is great. You’re studying a German aria some Tuesday afternoon and a friend you haven’t seen in 6 months pops in for a cup of tea.”
We concluded by indulging in my own patriotic curiosity, “How does the rest of the world perceive The Canadian Opera Company as a tour de force?” She lovingly responds “there is something exciting happening, something new, they are bringing back Canada’s best artists. There’s a history of North American performers going over to Europe as there is so much more opportunity. Why not bring back the greatest Canadians and show what they can do on a Canadian stage?”
On the night of the show I marched along Richmond Street in the bitter cold in search of the theatre’s Stage Door. I typically arrive an hour before a performance starts to shoot my guest inside the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts as the cities well-to-do prance past with quaffed hair and bedazzled blazers.
It would be Dale’s first visit to the theatre and was delighted he was able to join me in a backstage tour before the show. PR pro Ms. Pugsley swooped us through the back alleys of the theatre and onto the stage where I marveled at a dizzying number of pulleys, curtains, knobs, switches and buttons. It was certainly an odd feeling to stand on the stage. A little intimidating looking down at the orchestra and into an empty audience. I was curious as ever wandering behind the curtain, encountering a private quick change wardrobe dubbed “the honeymoon suite,” and enjoyed a good gawk at a table full of party props (fake lit cigarettes, platters of faux food and celebratory goblets).
Simone was perky as ever once we graced her dressing room for a visit. We sat back and chit chatted while her hair was rolled, fake eyelashes adorned and a sweet waft of hair spray reminded us all that it was soon to be showtime. We bid our diva adieu at 7pm just in time to find our seats. I was ever so pleased to be sitting in “P” just a few rows from the conductor. The room filled with darkness and the crowd roared moments before Simone skipped her way onto the stage…