The Santa Fe Opera

Skip to main content Skip to search

Destination Santa Fe Opera - Isabel Leonard on Interpreting the Iconic Role of Carmen


Isabel Leonard on Interpreting the Iconic Role of Carmen

Is there a more provocative or iconic character in all of opera than Carmen? This free-spirited, defiant factory worker reigns supreme as the original difficult woman––in the best possible way.

Host Jane Trembley chats with Isabel Leonard as she gets set to play the titular diva in Bizet’s Carmen to open Santa Fe Opera’s 2022 season. The mezzo-soprano discusses her physical and emotional preparations for the role, how her Argentine-American heritage has informed her musical intuition, and her love for challenging the misconceptions that surround this charismatic, complicated heroine.

Isabel is no stranger to Carmen’s illustrious (or is it infamous?) appeal nor the long line of talents that have taken on this unjustly-labeled femme fatale. “Even if the concept is a good one, it can be a challenge to break out of it simply because humans are adverse to change in some ways,” says the three-time Grammy Award-winning performer.

Concepts don’t come any better than Carmen. When viewed through our modern lens, this character created in the 19th century is afforded more empathy for having to endure the limitations imposed on her.

“The psychology behind her and what fascinates me in her character has everything to do with not only who she is in her time period, as a woman, but who everybody seems to think she is and how that affects their perception of the piece when they watch it, regardless of how you play it.”

For her interpretation of Carmen, Isabel has reacquainted herself with the castanets, literally tapping into her Argentinian heritage and, even further back, to southern Spain. “I can only imagine the ghosts of Isabels past,” she laughs. “If I were not to fully embrace the character of Carmen, it would be somewhat sacrilegious.”


Isabel Leonard – Mezzo-Soprano





Destination Santa Fe Opera is a Santa Fe Opera podcast, produced and edited by Andrea Klunder at The Creative Impostor Studios.

Post-Production Audio: Edwin R. Ruiz

Hosted by: Jane Trembley

Show Notes by: Lisa Widder


Learn more about the Santa Fe Opera and plan your visit at

We’d love for you to join us on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and TikTok @santafeopera.