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'It's a happy ending... they burn me to death'

Co Antrim mezzo soprano Carolyn Dobbin tells Maggie Armstrong about her scenic route to being an opera star and playing a 'deranged Nigella Lawson' in the new production of 'Hansel and Gretel'

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New horizons: Carolyn Dobbin started out teaching before taking 
the plunge in the  world of opera

New horizons: Carolyn Dobbin started out teaching before taking the plunge in the world of opera

Touring nationally: Amelie Metcalfe and Carolyn Dobbin in Hansel and Gretel. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

Touring nationally: Amelie Metcalfe and Carolyn Dobbin in Hansel and Gretel. Photo by Ros Kavanagh

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New horizons: Carolyn Dobbin started out teaching before taking the plunge in the world of opera

When mezzo soprano Carolyn Dobbin told her father she was leaving her pensionable job as an art teacher to head off and train as an opera singer, he said: "Oh for goodness sake, will you just settle down and get married?"

That was 20 years ago and sitting in her dressing room in the Abbey today, the prima donna laughs kindly. "I'm glad I went," she says. "It was a good decision."

A seasoned artist who has lived in Switzerland, Scotland, Wales and now London and worked with the finest companies, Dobbin (43) plays the witch in the new Abbey Theatre/Irish National Opera/ Theatre Lovett co-production of Hansel and Gretel, Engelbert Humperdinck's 1893 opera.