How I flipped from mezzo to tenor and back

How I flipped from mezzo to tenor and back


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2023

The French mezzo-soprano Katia Ledoux has just given a first hand account of her amazing rescue act at the Vienna Volksoper:

This is the story of how I became a tenor for one night.
Tuesday 19:20. I’m sitting in the office next to our casting director’s office and hear through the open door that another singer who could potentially jump in for our Orpheus tomorrow says the show is too complicated to learn until tomorrow. The tenor supposed to sing the title role is very sick and cannot come to mime his part so we need one person to sing from the pit and one person to play the part on stage. I’m asking the stage manager who’s sitting there whether he couldn’t play it, but tomorrow is a particularly busy day full of important meetings, there would not be enough time for him to prepare. The brilliant idea of flying the stage director in for that part is giving everybody hope, but soon we hear the phone call: impossible. He cannot leave the UK. Out of curiosity I decide to look into the score to see how much Orpheus has to sing and look at the video to see what he has to do…

Tuesday 19:40. Another phone call. Another tenor can’t jump in tomorrow. The options are dwindling. I mention half-jokingly to the Stage-Manager if technically he thinks I could do it? Venus and Orpheus don’t share much stage time and when they are both on stage together they sing very similar lines in big ensemble, shouldn’t it be possible that one person does both? He starts to seriously think about it and says it depends how fast I am with learning all the text, but with 3 hours of staging rehearsal before the show he thinks it could be doable… I have another look into the score. It really doesn’t look that difficult… sure I’d have to jump between singing some things an octave lower to sound like a tenor and sing some things in my octave to be able to be heard… but… I think… I could actually do it…

Tuesday 19:50. I said it out loud. I said I could do it. The whole role. Sung and played. Silence filled the room. “I’d need 3 hours of musical coaching in the morning with Frau Andel, she’s the only one with whom I could learn the full role in so little time, then 3h of staging, tickets so that my parents can see that as well as the friend I was supposed to have lunch with and will try to appease with a free ticket instead… oh and flat shoes! There is no way I can do the whole show with Venus’ high heels because they always kill my feet. But otherwise if you tell me now that I got it, I’m going home to start learning the dialogues now…”

Tuesday 20:10. I’m sitting in the metro going home. I’m a bit shaky while dialing up the phone number of my agent: “I’m jumping in for Orpheus tomorrow”.

I wish I could continue a detailed description of how Wednesday then looked like, but honestly it’s been a complete blurr… After a night of virtually no sleep, I arrived at the opera house at 08:30 in the morning for costume fittings, dialogue rehearsals, musical coachings, wig fittings, staging rehearsal,… and suddenly it was 19:00, the curtain went up with an announcement that “we’re very thankful for Katia Ledoux to be saving the show by playing both the roles of Venus AND Orpheus tonight!” and I got hit by the sudden realization that I am absolutely batshit crazy for doing this… What the heck was I thinking????

It was mad, I was cringing at myself throughout the entire show, I spent the entire break after the second act crying of exhaustion, I messed up quite a few scenes,… but in the end… I received one of the warmest and most beautiful applauses of my life and I earned cool points for being “fearless”. Was it worth it? Absolutely not! 3/10 would not recommend… 😅 I’ve had actual nightmares that felt a LOT less terrifying.

It pushed me to my absolute limit, but also showed me clearly how much love, warmth and support surround me.
I received all the praise, but never in a million years would I have been able to do this on my own!
My biggest thanks go to all the amazing people of the Volksoper who worked so hard to make it as smooth of an experience for me as possible.
First and foremost Rita Oberparleiter , our Souffleuse (prompter) who came in for extra rehearsals with me and basically carried the entire show by whispering me all my lines and giving me all the cues (musical AND STAGING!!)! Rita you are the true Goddess of this show and we are incredibly lucky to have you, your constant help, but also your positive mood, professionalism and just overall pure kindness. Especially in this show, I would have been even more lost without your wonderful guidance. You’re an angel! Thank you!
Also special warm thanks to Victoria Rottensteiner and all the stage hands and managers who held my hands backstage and got me through the staging…
Thank you to all the colleagues of the show who threw me help and support through and through the whole show, especially my “work family” Aaron Pendelton and Jaye Simmons for building me a space to cry and let out all my feels, but also helped me keep my chin up and get back on stage when I felt like such a poop. Special thanks also to Jakob Semotan who is an absolute darling of a colleague and a magician who managed to CONSTANTLY say the exact perfect thing to keep me out of overthinking everything.
Thank you to all my stage partners especially Hedwig Ritter, Ruth Brauer-Kvam and all the ballet dancers for their flexibility on stage with improvising some scenes a bit differently than rehearsed… 😅
Thank you to the wonderful choir of the Volksoper for the hugs and all the supporting words!
Thank you to Maestro Alexander Joel the orchestra of the Volksoper for jumping with me when I jumped, for keeping their cool and for the beautiful applause and showings of appreciation at the end of the show!
Thank you to Susanna and all the makeup and costume fairies who worked their butts off to make all these massive quick changes happen before and during the show…
Big thank you to Mariann Grunenwald for staying up with me and help me find ways to memorize all the dialogues through late-night videocall… 😅
Thank you to my singing teacher Ulf Bästlein and my agent Olivier Lallouette for their neverending support! Thank you to my friends and family who keep me from going completely cuckoo by grounding me with their love.
Thank you to the Viennese audience for reacting so positively to this last minute change and being so much in my corner through this…
And last but not least thank you to Lotte de Beer and her team to so wholeheartedly believe in me and give me these types of massive tokens of trust!
Image description: me, in Orpheus wig and makeup, 40 min before the show, starting to regret every single one of my life decisions…


  • Guest says:

    Priceless! Congratulations on her courage and passion for opera, her wonderfully honest description of what happened and how she felt, huge BRAVA to such dedication!

    • Lausitzer says:

      Plus: Reading such a description of “how much love, warmth and support surround me” indicates that not everything is lost, confirms that cynicism does not prevail.

  • Whimbrel says:

    Great story, and very brave to do that.

  • Potpourri says:

    A delightful story about courage, creativity and resilience. The audience probably appreciated the unique experience which they will never see again. Brava!

  • Peter San Diego says:

    This will make me seek out Ms. Ledoux in any performance I could feasibly catch. A fine, brave artist and, in her writing, a delightful person!

  • Kenny says:

    I loved every letter of this. Only could wish it were I.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Bravo again to you, your courage, ambition and talent. AND for singling out the prompter – Rita Oberparleiter – who talked you through the whole evening. These people are regular life-savers in Bayreuth, for example, and should be recognised more often. Class.

  • Fred Funk says:

    She’s an absolute treasure, while the viola section..zZzZz

  • HerrForkenspoon says:

    If you are going to give a “thumbs down,” the least you could do would be to give the reason why. Cowardice is not a virtue.

  • John Picone says:

    Brava (and Bravo!) but please PLEASE: share some photos and just a little bit of a tenor aria?

  • Robert Holmén says:

    That is a great show-biz story. I hope some record of the evening exists.

    Imagine how the tenor feels… he got replaced by a mezzo after once day’s practice!