Opera: Simone Osborne gives Rigoletto’s heroine a backbone

Opera: Simone Osborne gives Rigoletto’s heroine a backbone

Simone Osborne
She had no interest in opera—she wanted to sing jazz. But when Simone Osborne was 17, her voice teacher suggested she learn “O mio babbino caro,” Lauretta’s aria from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. The heart-melting melody hooked her on opera for life. It’s been a dizzying ascent for someone who not long ago was performing in her teacher’s living room. To pay for singing lessons, Osborne made Blizzards at a Dairy Queen in Vancouver, her hometown (“I still love them!” she says). In 2008, she began training with the legendary mezzo Marilyn Horne, before being accepted into the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio (grad school for the next generation of singers). She snagged the lead soprano role in Mozart’s The Magic Flute last winter and sang Naiad in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos in the spring. Now, just 24, she’s taking on Gilda, the self-sacrificing daughter in Verdi’s Rigoletto, a part that requires a voice both winsome and fierce with conviction (she’s got it). As for what she might have in common with Gilda, Osborne quips that she, too, is a hopeless romantic, who happens to be “very much single but taking applications.” More importantly, she’s got enough natural sass to bring something new to her portrayal of Gilda, a character too often played as wearyingly naive. “She has the strength of character to die for someone she loves even when she knows he’s a bad person,” says Osborne. “There’s no way she should be played moony and pukey.” When she walks into the death trap set for her in the last act of Verdi’s masterpiece, you’ll know she means it, every step of the way.


OPERA
Rigoletto
Sept. 29 to Oct. 22
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts