OPERA PLACES Simone McIntosh takes us to Düsseldorf and Duisburg, Germany

by | Jan 10, 2024 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

Canadian mezzo soprano Simone McIntosh is coming to us from Düsseldorf and Duisburg, Germany where she just debuted the role of Hänsel in Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s production of Hänsel und Gretel, running until Jan 21 (tickets and info here).

Simone’s 2023/2024 season began with her representing Canada in the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and performing the starring role of Rosina in Rossini‘s classic The Barber of Seville with Scottish Opera. She will soon grace the Canadian Opera Company‘s stage as Zerlina in their production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni Feb 2 – 24 (tickets and info here). As a recent graduate of the International Opera Studio, she will be returning to Opernhaus Zürich later this year to perform Siegrune in Die Walküre, running May 5 – 20, and La speranza/Proserpina in L’Orfeo, May 17 – Jun 16.

This week, we’re lucky to grab some time with this jet-setting artist and hear about her experiences in Germany, where to find tasty vegetarian food on the road, and the importance of clean and reliable accommodations. Read on for more!

City where you’re working?
Düsseldorf and Duisburg, Germany.

How long are you working on contract?
One month on and off – very short.

What’s the opera house like?
It is a welcoming, supportive, and extremely FAST-PACED house! Everyone at this house is used to doing two or three productions at a time, short rehearsal periods, and frequent cast changes/jump-ins.

In total, I only had three rehearsals for my Hänsel role debut: One 6hr staging rehearsal, a piano dress and an orchestra dress. It was unlike any other rehearsal experience I’ve had prior, but exciting and new!

For this run, I was one of three Hänsels, worked with three conductors, three Gretels, three Witches, three Fathers, two Mothers, two Sandmanns, and three Dew Fairies. Several times, I met my cast mates an hour before the show. In one instance, I met my castmate on stage during our performance. Very different to the North American system.


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Where is the most peaceful place in the city?
Unfortunately, it rained most of the time I was in Düsseldorf. During this time of year, being cozy at home/hotel is the most peaceful. When I last was in Düsseldorf, I really enjoyed being by the river in the Old Town.  





























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Best coffee or tea?
My trip was so short, so I had most of my coffee from the canteen at the theatre. Just normal coffee, but only 1€!

Coolest bar or restaurant you’ve been to?
I had EXCELLENT, Indian food at a place called Jaipur Prime. Definitely one of my top three Indian restaurants I’ve ever had (and I eat a lot). 10/10

An activity you have done that is unique to the area?
I visited the Düsseldorf and Duisburg Weihnachtsmarkts a fair bit and enjoyed some Glühwein (German mulled wine) a few times. Nothing beats that!


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Is there something unexpected that happens locally that you discovered?
Not necessarily an event, but I was pretty astonished by how good the food was in Düsseldorf. In other parts of Germany, I find food can be a little less exciting and unaccommodating to a vegetarian diet (Duisburg would definitely fall under this category). Düsseldorf, however, was fantastic! I didn’t find a restaurant I didn’t enjoy.

How did you find your accommodation?
This contract had several large gaps. I would fly home to Paris between shows, which was more cost effective than booking accommodation. Having time at my new home and spending time with my partner was perfect. When I was in Düsseldorf/Duisburg, my accommodation consisted of two Airbnbs, one singer-friend connection and two hotels.

What’s the most important thing you think of when it comes to finding accommodation as a singer?
By far, the most important thing is cleanliness. I’m not terribly picky, but it never feels good when a place is grimy, has mould and/or is not reasonably well kept. German and Austrian Airbnbs generally tend to be much more cleanly and welcoming (so far). I am starting to experience more and more Airbnbs where this is not the case, particularly in other parts of the world.
I’ve had to cancel dirty Airbnb listings and find last minute hotels several times in the past few months. It costs A LOT of energy to do this, especially if you’re tired from travel and need to worry about important auditions or performances the next day. I’m starting to find more value with staying at reputable hotels for shorter trips. It costs more, but when the stakes are high, it’s worth it.

Have you had a chance to explore some galleries or museums?
This trip was unfortunately too short for me to explore too terribly much. Most of my days off I would go back to Paris… Which is also an experience!

Is there anything else you’d recommend?
I really enjoyed the vegan ramen at Tokyo Ramen. Pizzeria da Ciro was also a favourite! Ciro, himself, made our pizza as we were surrounded by posters his favourite F1 racing cars/drivers and certificates of his past running accomplishments from his professional career. His heart and soul were definitely running the joint.

Ⓒ Cory Weaver
Rusalka – San Francisco Opera
©Herwig Prammer
Serse – Opera Zürich
ⒸCandida Höfer, Köln / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Deutsche Oper am Rhein

Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel
Oper am Rhein

Dec 2, 2023 – Jan 21, 2024

CONDUCTOR Harry Ogg / Sebastian Ludwig / Péter Halász / Vitali Alekseenok
DIRECTOR Andreas Meyer-Hanno
SET DESIGN Gerda Zientek

HANSEL Simone McIntosh / Alexandra Yangel / Kimberley Boettger-Soller
GRETEL Anke Krabbe / Lavinia Dames / Heidi Elisabeth Meier
GERTRUDE Renée Morloc / Sarah Ferede
PETER Stefan Heidemann / Insu Hwang / Frank Dolphin Wong / Richard Šveda
WITCH Florian Simson / Morenike Fadayomi / Cornel Frey
SANDMAN Anna Sophia Theil / Verena Kronbichler
DEWMAN Mara Guseynova / Chorong Kim / Bogdana Bevziuk
GAME MANAGEMENT Volker Böhm / Lotte Zuther / Mara Ludwig
CHILDREN’S CHOIR Düsseldorf Girls’ and Boys’ Choir
ORCHESTRA Duisburg Philharmonic Orchestra / Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra

It is the well-known story of the two poor broom-making children who got lost in the forest and fell into the clutches of the evil witch Rosina Sweet Mouth. The music also resonates in the ear, as the composer Engelbert Humperdinck embedded popular, catchy melodies in the richness of a late romantic orchestral apparatus.

“Hansel and Gretel” belongs on pre-Christmas opera schedules like gingerbread belongs on the crispy house. The cult production by Andreas Meyer-Hanno is as irresistible as the sweet pastries, which, after its scenic rejuvenation a few years ago, is once again spreading festive splendor this season.

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