• Get to Know the Cast of CARMEN

    By COC Staff

    You’ve met our Carmens, now get to know the rest of the cast! We spoke to members of the Carmen on-stage talent to find out how they approach their characters, what they listen to beyond opera, and their favourite moments of Bizet’s blockbuster opera—spoiler alert, some answers below discuss plot points for those who’d prefer not to know the ending! 

    COC: What was your first experience with Carmen, either as a performer or audience member? 

    Alain Coulombe
    Role in Carmen: Zuniga, the Captain, who sends Carmen to prison  

    In the eighties and nineties, I was a collaborative pianist and I accompanied many singers in concert in a cocktail of opera, cabaret, and jazz repertoire. A soprano with whom I played lots of gigs had the “Habanera” from Carmen as her encore aria. I used to sing the chorus line “Prends garde à toi” from behind the keyboard with a comical menacing grin, which made the public laugh every night! At that time, I had absolutely no idea that Zuniga in Carmen would be one of the roles that I would end up performing the most in my career, in fact almost a hundred times. 

    Lucas Meachem 
    Role in Carmen: Escamillo

    My first experience of Carmen was understudying the role of Escamillo back in 2002 at the Central City Opera, so I have now been acquainted with the role of Escamillo the bullfighter for 20 years. 

    Anna-Sophie Neher   
    Role in Carmen: Micaëla, a young woman 

    Carmen is the first opera I truly fell in love with. I was a teenager (and still a pianist) and had just discovered opera. I had received a gift of a Maria Callas DVD in concert where she sang “Près des remparts de Séville” and I just fell in love with her…and with the song. I still remember the first time I finally got to see Carmen: it was at l’Opéra de Montréal.  

    Joyce El-Khoury  
    Role in Carmen: Micaëla, a young woman  

    I was a member of the Carmen chorus when I was part of the Opera Lyra Ottawa Young Artists’ program. It was my first experience being involved in a full production. This was when I truly fell in love with opera and knew for certain that I wanted to spend my life on the opera stage. 

    COC: How well do you relate to the character you’re singing? 

    Alain Coulombe: I love singing and playing the role of Zuniga because it is a character that can evolve and change tremendously from one production to the next. Over the years, I've played Zuniga sometimes lighthearted, jovial and cheerful, sometimes calculating and power hungry, sometimes jealous and borderline obsessive, or totally playful and debonair. French being my first language, it gives me additional freedom and flow with the dialogue.  

    Lucas Meachem: Well, I’m a vegan, so I don’t get down with bullfighting too much. But as soon as I hit the stage, I’m the best bullfighter that ever was or ever will be or has ever been. 

    Anna-Sophie Neher: As much as I would love to say that I am as free and confident as Carmen, I definitely am more of a Micaëla. I think Micaëla is such an incredible character. She is loyal, righteous, delicate, and strong, all at the same time. You can always see and hear her emotions, which is what makes her so human, so likable. It is not hard to relate to someone like that.  

    Joyce El-Khoury: I don’t relate to her very much…but the scared little Lebanese girl in me who immigrated to Canada not knowing what to expect does. 

    Marcelo Puente  
    Role in Carmen: Don José, a corporal, and Carmen’s love interest:  

    I love to play the role in its depth and forget about myself, about Marcelo. I always try to breathe and feel every emotion and reaction in the role. I’m very related emotionally with Don José, it was my first big role and I grew professionally with him. 

    COC: What’s your favourite moment of the opera? 

    Alain Coulombe: I love the tragic and confrontational last scene between Carmen and Don José. For 25 years, I have been watching this last scene from the wings at every single performance. It always gives me goosebumps and the emotionally charged ending brings tears to my eyes every time! 

    Lucas Meachem: My favourite moment of the opera is my duet with Don José because there’s a good old-fashioned knife fight involved, and the music is absolutely amazing. We both have big high notes and it leads right into slashing and swashbuckling. 

    Anna-Sophie Neher: My favorite moment will always be when Carmen sings ”Près des remparts de Séville”. I can still hear Callas from my DVD sing it! It is so sexy and catchy. I will never tire of hearing this song. 

    Joyce El-Khoury: The prelude to Act IV! That music really gets me going! 

    Marcelo Puente: I will say the last duet between Carmen and Don José. The role of Don José is a big challenge for any artist, vocally and especially the acting aspects of the role. He has a big evolution throughout the opera. At the start, he’s a more shy, quiet, and disciplined person and then he wrongly evolves into a murderer. This final duet is absolutely dramatic with amazing music.  

    COC: What are you looking forward to most while you’re in Toronto? 

    Alain Coulombe: Performing at the COC is such a privilege for me; having been an Ensemble Studio member 24 years ago, coming back on this stage is like coming home. I love the company and the people who work there, and Toronto being my home, I get to sleep in my bed every night, which is a luxury for a traveling singer! 

    Lucas Meachem: Visiting with some of my Toronto friends and getting reacquainted with the city. The last time I was in Toronto I was singing Marcello in La Boheme, and I had such an amazing time there.

    Anna-Sophie Neher: The COC was my home while I was in the Ensemble. I spent a lot of hours with my fellow members. I am just looking forward to seeing all of the people who work, sing, and are part of the COC family. It is always nice to come back to my opera home. 

    Joyce El-Khoury: Working in my home country with a company full of people that I love. It's a huge joy to be able to work among people who feel like family. For a special treat, I really like going to BarChef—the cocktails there are unmatched. If you ever want to see true art in a glass, that's the place to go!  

    COC: What non-opera music are you listening to? 

    Alain Coulombe: I am a big fan of jazz; this is my go-to music to relax and recharge. Radio station JAZZ. is always playing in my car. I also find tremendous comfort, solace, and peace in listening to Bach’s piano music. It speaks to my soul and helps me through tough times. 

    Lucas Meachem: Lizzo’s new album! She’s from the town I live in, Minneapolis. 

    Anna-Sophie Neher: I must admit that I mostly listen to non-opera music on a day-to-day basis. My taste in music is quite eclectic. I can listen to Lizzo, Rihanna, Leonard Cohen, Mumford & Sons, Stromae, The Cat Empire, Don McLean, Eminem, ABBA, Francis Cabrel, the Backstreet Boys! Almost anything. But I do have a soft spot for acoustic folk music. 

    Joyce El-Khoury: I love anything from the 70s and 80s and, as of late, all I seem to listen to is Gerry Rafferty, Dire Straits, Bee Gees, and a LOT of Lebanese music, of course. 

    Marcelo Puente: I am more into of the classic songs and singers of all time: Frank Sinatra, Charles Aznavour, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Tom Jones. I’m a big romantic, what can I say! 

    Join us for Carmen, opening October 4 and running until November 4! Rihab Chaieb will perform the lead role on October 20 and 22, while J'Nai Bridges will perform on October 14, 16, 26, 28, 30, and November 4.

    Get tickets today!

    Photo (2): Michael Cooper
    Posted in 22/23 Season


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