Q & A: Carmen Topciu on ‘Carmen’ & Performing on Cockatoo Island

By Francisco Salazar

Romanian mezzo-soprano Carmen Topciu is in the midst of a run of “Carmen” with Opera Australia, following her acclaimed performances with the company in 2020.

The production is being performed on Cockatoo Island. The evening begins with a ferry ride across the water to the world-heritage-listed sanctuary of Cockatoo Island. Audiences will be surrounded by layers of history and then will experience a performance of Bizet’s most famous work.

Topciu, who has performed with the company in multiple productions including “Maria Stuarda,” “Bluebeard’s Castle” and “Anna Bolena,” spoke to OperaWire about the experience and new production at Cockatoo Island. 

OperaWire: Tell me about performing on Cockatoo Island and this new stage. Tell me about this production of “Carmen” and how it is worked around Cockatoo Island.

Carmen Topciu: I think Cockatoo Island is the perfect place for an opera to be staged, it’s outdoors and for Sydney it’s perfect. People love to stay outside and enjoy time in nature. The opera was well selected and the director had the idea of placing the action in a more modern era than it’s written. This was a different concept for me because I had to get used to the microphone. I have sung outdoors before but not with a microphone and the thing that I miss is not having the orchestra in front of me and the conductor, not so much for the security of singing/orchestra but because of the energy that you exchange with all the musicians involved.

OW: How has your interpretation of “Carmen” deepened in this production? Tell me about working with the director Liesel Badorrek.

CT: The director came up with an interesting idea and I tried to follow her line and I think I did it well. I have put a lot of myself in the staging because her idea allowed me to do so. I love being challenged; this makes me learn more about myself and what I can do on stage. I think we did a great job together, director and singers, because we listened to each other and in the end we chose the ideas that worked better for both parties.

OW: What are the biggest challenges of a role like Carmen?

CT: In this part, you have to be careful with how you dose your energy. The part is long and besides singing, you have to be there and play even if you don’t have to sing; you have to dance, play, and sing some more. I think the most important thing in Carmen is the energy that you have to bring during the whole performance; people count on you.

OW: What are your favorite parts of the role?

CT: The best parts of this role are all of it because it’s so different. There is no aria like the other and the same with the duets or ensemble parts. I love the fact that this opera is so unique.

OW: Tell me about working with this cast.

CT: My partners in this cast are all experienced singers and that is fantastic. I have sung with them before and I’m happy to see them again and make good music. The more you know each other, the better it is for the final result.

OW: How do you think audiences will experience this production and what do you think they will get from the experience of traveling to Cockatoo Island?

CT: I saw the people enjoying the performance, it’s different than in the opera house; it’s more relaxed so people laugh and make noise and it’s good, I’m learning to love that too. Getting to the Island is fast and so beautiful. I enjoy it every time. The best part of this production or idea, of making an opera on Cockatoo Island, is that people have the opportunity to see a different kind of staging and energy and expand their knowledge and visions about classical music. I love it.


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