Pacific Opera’s Carmen arrives after a two-year delay, with a rising star in the title role

Montreal mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule plays the title role in the company’s season-opening opera.


Where: Theater Royal, 805 Broughton Street.

When: October 12-18

Tickets: $29 to $153 at the Royal McPherson box office (250-386-6121) or

The curtain falls next week on Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Carmenwith mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule occupying the title role for the third time in her young career.

According to Sproule, his nerves are in check at this point. Not only does she know what to expect, but the 34-year-old Montrealer has begun to put her own stamp on the role. “I get adrenaline, energy and excitement, but not so much in the sense of fear,” the Juilliard School graduate laughed.

Carmen has long been considered sacred ground, as far as opera is concerned. Most directors are reluctant to alter certain aspects of French composer Georges Bizet’s original; Simply put, fans expect to see the big, bold 19th-century love story set during the Spanish Civil War shown on a grand scale. In Victoria, this will be done with the help of Adam Luther (Don José), Lauren Margison (Micaëla) and Jorell Williams (Escamillo) in the main roles, and a creative team that includes the conductor Timothy Vernon and director François Racine.

Pacific Opera’s long-awaited season opener also features 32 community members in the choir and 14 singers from the Victoria Children’s Choir.

Sproule said audiences will be treated to a version that is “more or less the way it was meant to be told”, not a radical reinterpretation. But elsewhere in the world, there are exceptions. “This opera is not at all free from modern productions that take creative license. There was one in London where Carmen appears dressed as a monkey and removes her head just before she starts singing. I don’t know what it was, but it certainly wasn’t traditional.

Sproule was originally going to make his professional debut as Carmen during the Pacific Opera tour scheduled for April 14-26, 2020. These dates were rescheduled when the province closed in-person performances. “It would have been my first Carmen with an established opera company, and I was so excited when I got the email about it,” she said.

The upcoming four Pacific Opera performances, which begin Wednesday at the Royal Theater and run until October 18, are no longer Sproule’s debut in the role. In the two years since the initial postponement, Sproule has had the opportunity to play Carmen elsewhere, twice.

In the months leading up to the pandemic, and with an extended out-of-town schedule, Sproule pulled out of her Montreal apartment lease, stored most of her belongings, and committed to living a nomadic life. When the pandemic hit and all concerts were canceled, she was forced to return to Montreal and bounced between her parents’ house and Airbnbs, before finding another apartment of her own.

It took a year for the job in Canada to return, she said, so she signed on to play Carmen in Hong Kong, where the effects of COVID-19 were significantly lessened at the time. Sproule was booked to play Carmen soon after in Finland, but an uptick in COVID-19 cases scuttled that production. She eventually signed on for the title role in a production with the Houston Grand Opera, which garnered rave reviews last year. In his review of CarmenHouston Press reporter D. L. Groover wrote enthusiastically of Sproule’s vocals, calling it “deep and rich and ‘beaming with smoke.’

Those aren’t words that would have described his pre-pandemic voice, Sproule admitted. Now she can hear the difference in her delivery. “My voice really opened up.”

There’s a good reason for that, Sproule said.

“It was yoga.”

At the start of the pandemic, when she was away from the stage, she did something completely irrelevant: she traveled to Costa Rica to receive her yoga teacher training certificate. “I hadn’t exercised, I had put on weight, so I thought it would be a good thing to do,” she said of the decision.

“I went from never doing yoga to 10 hours a day of yoga class. It was so out of left field. Besides going to school to sing, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done to sing. It was completely life changing.

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