The Power of Opera

From heroes and villains to laughter and heartache, opera offers timeless tales. For soprano Simone Osborne (DMPS ‘09), the universal stories that connect artists and audiences motivate her to perform, night after night.

“Seeing and hearing these stories about real people and real emotions remind us that we’re all equal,” says Simone, who recently debuted as Pamina in The Magic Flute, a production by the nation’s largest opera ensemble, the Canadian Opera Company (COC).

“There’s a certain amount of understanding that comes with being in a theatre—and that these feelings and states of mind are universal.”

Drawn to what she calls “an extremely intimate art form,” Simone believes that singing can have a positive influence in people’s lives.

“When people are really touched after a night at the theatre, they feel changed by that experience. I think the world needs a little bit more of that.”

Simone first appeared on stage in Europe at the age of 18. At 21, she won the prestigious opera competition—the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions—in New York City. She attributes her success to the training she received at UBC.

“The reason that I am an opera singer is because of UBC,” says Simone, who had performed 24 roles by the time she turned 24. “The UBC Opera program gave me opportunities to perform on stage right from the very beginning.”

Supported by the late patron of the performing arts, David Spencer, and founded on the belief that experience is crucial to success, the UBC Opera program offers students invaluable experiences: to perform in three productions every season; to sing in a variety of community engagements; and to tour in Europe, China and Canada during the summer.

“All of this, coupled with the incredible teaching faculty and the top-level courses, not only in Music but also in Arts—the great language classes, diction lessons and coaching—is unlike any other training program in Canada,” Simone says.

Established in 1997, the David Spencer Endowment has supported many young artists who have moved on to successful careers in North America, Europe and beyond. Simone is on her way to joining the ranks of illustrious alumni including Canadian tenor Ben Heppner (BMus ‘79, LLD ‘97) and mezzo-soprano Judith Forst (BMus ‘65, DLitt ‘91).

“There has never been a civilized society without the performing arts and without arts and culture,” adds Simone, whose next role is as Gilda in Rigoletto with the COC. “I think it’s our responsibility to take people out of their daily lives, engage with them, and remind them about some of the more important things in life.”