Calgary Opera's lead singer lip syncs opening night of Carmen

After fighting a throat infection, lead singer Sandra Piques Eddy was forced to act out Carmen while another mezzo-soprano sang next to her on stage.

Sandra Piques Eddy gets sick, lip synchs opera while company's emerging artist lends voice

In Saturday's opening night performance of Carmen, mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy fell ill after the first scene. She acted out the rest of the opera while a member of Calgary Opera's emerging artist program sang her part next to her on stage. (Calgary Opera)

On the opening night of Carmen, Calgary Opera got creative after its lead singer Sandra Piques Eddy's throat infection took a turn for the worse.

After performing the first aria in front a full house, Eddy came off stage and told the company's CEO Bob McPhee, "I'm pushing it, I could damage my voice."

McPhee says Calgary Opera made a quick decision, and asked mezzo-soprano Beste Kalender to step in for Eddy.

"She felt very exhausted, and I think she used everything she had at that point," said Kalender, who is a member of Calgary Opera's emerging artist development program.

But Kalender is not an official understudy and only performed the voice of Carmen, standing at a music stand with the score in front her while Eddy lip synched the remainder of the opera.

"If I was an official cover I would know the staging, I would be present at the staging rehearsal, but I didn't know the staging. So to please our audience we decided to collaborate," said Kalender.

"She was acting on stage, I was her voice. It was such a pleasure. It was such an honour," she said.

Apprentice to the rescue

Kalender was chosen to take over the role of Carmen because she knew the music, having performed it back in 2011 with Pellegrini Opera in Ottawa. 

McPhee says Calgary Opera doesn't have understudies for all roles and "indeed, we didn't for this one."

He says it's not the first time an apprenticing singer has come to the rescue for the company. In fact it's happened three times in 17 years.

"It's live theatre, and so there's the element of risk in anything that's live. But I think many of the patrons felt that they experienced something very unique," said McPhee.

He also says no one has asked for their money back.

Kalender says she was nervous, but says the cast and crew at Calgary Opera was very supportive.

"They believed in me and it gave me really big courage," she said.