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La Scena Musicale Online Reviews and News / Critiques et Nouvelles


Visit La Scena Musicale Online Reviews. [Index] Critiques de La Scena Musicale Online

Quebec Contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux Makes a Brilliant Ontario Debut

By Joseph So July 30, 2001

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto
Michael McMahon, piano
Maureen Forrester Young Canadian Artists Series
The New Stratford Summer Music
Perth County Court House, Stratford, Ontario July 25, 2001

Marie-Nicole Lemieux
To quote a line from Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier – "Ein ernster Tag, eine grosser Tag! Ein Ehrentag, ein heiliger Tag!" – July 25th was a most felicitous day. It marked Marie-Nicole Lemieux's debut in English Canada, as part of the Maureen Forrester Young Canadian Artists Series at the New Stratford Summer Music Festival.

A native of Dolbeau-Mistassini, Quebec, Lemieux has been compared to Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester, one of the most beloved artists of our time. July 25th was also Forrester's 71st birthday and she is now in the fiftieth year of her still-active performing career. What better occasion than to have Lemieux, a previous winner of the Maureen Forrester Scholarship make her Ontario debut with Forrester and her family sitting in the front row?

The 26-year old Quebec native is on a roll when it comes to competitions. Last year, she won the Grand Prize and the special Lieder Prize of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Music Competition in Belgium, as well as the Prix Joseph Rouleau of Jeunesses Musicales du Canada. And just last week, it was announced that she has been awarded the coveted Canada Council Virgina Parker Prize of $25,000.

What's all the fuss, you ask? Well, Lemieux's voice is that rarest of instruments – a true contralto, but one that is unusually flexible and without the heaviness that is sometimes the case in this voice category. It is beautiful, rich, warm, resonant, powerful, and capable of a range of tone colours. Generously figured, Lemieux carries herself well and is not at all self-conscious onstage. She also possesses an ebullient personality and abundant communicative power, requisites for any artist with something to say. The Italian Baroque selections that opened the recital were sung with lovely tone and idiomatic style. A group of Schubert 'chestnuts' followed, delivered with poise and command unusual in such a young artist. Die Forelle benefited from her vivid stage presence, while An die Musik, a deceptively simple song that, because of its familiarity can sound either hackneyed or perfunctory, was sung with sincerity and simplicity.

The excellent impression made in Schubert was reinforced in the Duparc and Tchaikovsky songs. L'invitation au voyage displayed a lovely mezza voce, but when she let her voice go, as in the climactic lines in Phidyle, there was plenty of power in reserve. As an encore, Lemieux chose Crude sorte! from L'Italiana in Algeri, dispatching the rapid-fire coloratura with aplomb . If one were to quibble, there was an occasional note here or there that was less than perfect, as in the high note that ends Otchevo. And the voice has yet to develop the rock solid bottom called for in the ending of Amour viens aider ma faiblesse, but all this will surely come with experience and maturity.

Michael McMahon was the sympathetic pianist, though he was hampered by having to play on a Yamaha baby grand with a muddy lower range. The standing-room only crowd at the Perth County Court House showed its appreciation with repeated standing ovations, led by Forrester herself. To those present, this debut recital signified a symbolic "passing of the torch", and one wishes that Marie-Nicole Lemieux will enjoy as long and illustrious a career as her predecessor.

Toronto audiences will get a chance to hear Ms. Lemieux next season, when she appears as Cornelia in Handel's Giulio Cesare with the Canadian Opera Company in April 2002.


Gluck : Che faro senza Euridice
Scarlatti: Sento nel core
Cesti: : Intorno all'idol mio
Marcello: Il mio bel foco

Schubert: -
Lachen und Weinen-
Auf der Donau-
Die Forelle-
An die Musik

Duparc -
L'invitation au voyage-
Serenade Florentine-
Chanson triste-

To byla rannieiou viesnoi-
Dien li tsarit

Saint-Saens: Amour viens aider ma faiblesse

Encore: Rossini : Crude sorte! from L'Italiana in Algeri

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