Karine Boucher, who shares the role of Micaëla in the Canadian Opera Company’s April production of Carmen, may not quite qualify as a former child prodigy—but the young soprano had a great running start into a singing career as soon as she entered her teens.
“I started singing when I was 11,” the Quebec City native now a Gerrard St. resident recalls. “I was the black sheep of a very non-musical family, I was always the one to show off, dancing and singing, and my grandfather told my Mom, ‘if you don’t take her to vocal lessons you’re not my daughter!’ and she said , ‘Uh, ok so lets do it.’”
“Our family didn’t have money so to pay for my lessons she was saving up her spare change. But she always encouraged me because she could feel that I loved it.”
“I went to my first vocal lessons with a teacher named Eve Martin and she was studying at that time at the Quebec Conservatory of Music with a teacher named Jacqueline-Martel Cistellini,” Boucher recounts. “At my first vocal lesson I was there to sing pop songs. She says right away as I sang my warmup phrases, ‘Oh: you could have a great voice for opera.’ I said, ‘Why not?’”
She got her master’s degree at 20 and auditioned for the young artists’ programme at the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal and was immediately accepted for a three-year term at Place des Arts.
“So I did my three years there and was still young when I finished, and then I had a year on my own which was very good for me because it taught me to manage my own life and be my own boss.”
Boucher won the Ensemble Studio Centre Stage competition at COC in 2013, later performing Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro with Centre Stage and understudying Jane Archibald in the main stage production of The Barber of Seville.
Her upcoming role—which is her first one on the main stage and which is shared with returning artist Simone Osborne—is a reprise of a familiar role; she sang Micaëla during her time at Atelier lyrique.
“It’s a complex, intense role,” she tells The Bulletin. “She is very pious and has always been in Don Jose’s life and he is very close to her mother. She is in love with him but he doesn’t see her as a lover, more as a little sister. She is still very naive. She has to tell Don Jose that her mother is dying…for some reason he had to leave his village and he doesn’t know. Her mother wants her to marry Don Jose but he is in love with Carmen and he’s drawn back to the dark side.”
Boucher has lived in Toronto for two years now. “I feel a little alone because I have no one here but colleagues. But it’s exciting to work here, so much to do. Quebec is a really little place compared to Toronto. But I love it. In Toronto it’s pretty much six days’ work out of seven. When I go home I love to go for a walk with my dog Goliath, a Rottweiler/German Shepherd puppy.”
Carmen runs from April 12 to May 15. For details and ticket orders, visit coc.ca.