Marie-Eve Munger, a young Québec-born coloratura soprano, made a standout Chicago Lyric Opera debut in December as the Fairy Godmother in Massenet’s Cendrillon. She will soon be singing Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Opéra du Lausanne. Those are only two current engagements for this singer, who is attracting notice as a young artist to watch. Her voice is remarkable, with an effortless high “spin” that seems to travel for miles.
Her recent opera-centered activity makes her debut CD, entitled Colorature, all the more interesting. Given what she has been up to, you would expect her to release a CD of operatic coloratura repertoire – maybe the Jewel Song from Lakmé, Caro Nome from Rigoletto (a video posted on YouTube amply documents the fact that she can nail it), and maybe Zerbinetta’s aria from Ariadne.
Instead, Ms. Munger, alongside the excellent pianist Louise-Andrée Baril, has released a completely unique collection of songs. Did she and Ms. Baril include Debussy, as you would expect a young Francophone soprano to do? Yes, they certainly did. But instead of including familiar Debussy repertoire like the Ariettes Oubliées or Lia’s aria from L’Enfant Prodigue, Ms. Munger and Ms. Baril start their album with five less familiar, and altogether enthralling, Debussy songs that include one entitled, Les elfes. We have never heard that one before, have you? But Ms. Munger and Ms. Baril make a strong case for it. And from there, they move on to works by Fauré (the haunting, wordless Vocalese-étude), Ravel (the Piece en forme de Habanera, written for violin and piano, but here performed by Ms. Munger), Milhaud (four songs to texts by Ronsard, why aren’t they performed all the time?), and Glière (the Concerto for Coloratura Soprano). Ms. Monger and Ms. Baril also include an altogether remarkable song cycle, “Chansons Pour Les Oiseaux” by the French composer Louis Beydts.
More than just a debut disk, this CD represents a significant artistic statement and achievement. Even in the stratospheric high range that doesn’t seem to give Ms. Munger a second thought, she applies a remarkable range of vocal colors and shadings. In her performance, Glière’s Concerto is certainly showy, but Ms. Munger makes it much more than a showpiece.
Be sure to check out Colorature and give it a thorough listen on Classical Archives. We are willing to bet you have never heard anything quite like it and that you, just as we did, will fall under its spell.