Isabel Leonard

Mezzo to Soprano

Mezzo to Soprano

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”  Eliza Tabor (1835-1914)

“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Planning for the WMCT’s November 19th Concert with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard (Met Opera star, Grammy Award and Richard Tucker Award winner) began two years ago. Artistic Director Simon Fryer suggested Miss Leonard to the Artists Selection Committee as a possibility for the 2015/16 Season.

Questions: How long-ago had a mezzo-soprano performed at Music In the Afternoon?
Would the season be balanced with Canadians and internationals, established and up-and-coming musicians? Was Miss Leonard available? Would she like to sing for us and did she have a pianist in mind?

The fit seemed just right, so a date was chosen and the agent’s contract was signed. Brochures were printed, website updated. Ads were placed, tickets sold. Lyrics were received, translations verified. Pre-concert talk arranged. Programmes printed. Critics invited. Refreshments purchased. One day left. Ready to go!

And then the agent’s phone call! “Miss Leonard is ill. Her doctor advises her not to fly from Chicago to Toronto. She has to cancel!”

What to do? Should we scrap the concert? Can we inform everyone in time? NO! A substitute must be found! Let’s try the agent. Is there another singer available on short notice? Maybe. Let’s try Canadian Soprano Simone Osborne. She just performed  with the Toronto Symphony.

“Oh! You’re in Winnipeg!…But you’re not busy tomorrow….You’d love to do it!…. You know the pianist, John Arida…. You have a programme ready to sing….There’s a flight this afternoon….You and John can rehearse this evening….”


And so the disappointment became resolve, the difficulty became opportunity, and the Mezzo became the Soprano!

Thanks to Artistic Director Simon Fryer, and Past President Annette Sanger, for a day full of emails and phone calls, avoiding disaster, and bringing us an unexpected treat.

Simone Osborne’s Surprise Debut


Pianist John Arida with Simone Osborne
Pianist John Arida with Simone Osborne

Simone Osborne threw her arms in the air and her signature big smile beamed as she greeted the Music in the Afternoon audience in Walter Hall Nov. 19.

Scant 30 hours before Isabel Leonard – due to illness – had cancelled her performance and Simone Osborne had graciously agreed to make her debut with the WMCT.

“The audience was indeed pleasantly surprised’, says Joseph So in his La Scena Musicale review.

“…it was a truly an auspicious WMCT debut.”
Read review