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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 16, No. 5

Marie-Josée Lord: An Auspicious Debut Album

by Wah Keung Chan / February 4, 2011

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Just two months after its release, Canadian soprano Marie-Josée Lord’s debut solo album on ATMA Classique is sitting No. 1 on Soundscan, with almost 20,000 copies sold. This recording should open doors for the soprano whose career has so far been mostly in Quebec and France. In our interview, Lord let slip that she and ATMA are already planning her second album.

LSM: How did the recording come about?

MJL: I’ve had offers since 2004 but at that time, I didn’t feel I was ready. I felt only great singers record a CD, and I didn’t think I was a great singer. ATMA really wanted to work with me. I recorded mostly the arias I knew, that I had already sung on stage or in concert, that I was able to defend vocally and emotionally.

Tell us about the order of the CD.

We chose it together. It is first a classical CD, but I wanted to be sure that it could be a recording for the general public. People normally listen to the first tracks and to the first 10 seconds of each track. I really wanted to put “Summertime” first. It’s very accessible. I was very happy singing it. Then I put “Le monde est stone” from Starmania because that’s how the public came to know me. And the orchestration fit very well with Gershwin.

Tell us about the recording session.

We were in a church and did only two takes per aria. We did the recording for the 12 arias over three days. On the first day, we had a 3-hour session, six hours on the second, and three hours on the third.

Why do you feel you are ready now?

It’s been a couple of years since I solved the problem of my quick vibrato. That’s one of the things that made me ready to do the CD. I felt that technically I had time to solve most of the things that were scaring me, that I was able to give a high-level recording. The voice is like wine—it becomes more mature with time. You understand more. I was doing a lot of things instinctively. After, there was a time when I wanted to know about what I was doing and how to be able to do it not just once, but every time: to know about the breathing, the support, how to relax the body and the face, to be able to always have the sound and the legato that I want.

What are your three favourite arias?

First, “Summertime.” It’s an aria that has been sung many times, by many great singers, opera, pop and jazz. We have to remember that it was first an opera aria. We have heard it quicker, faster, louder, but for me it was really important to give back what I think this aria possesses: the feeling of heat, the summer, the lullaby, the classical voice with that blue jazz mood. I felt I succeeded.

Then there is, “Voi lo sapete, o mamma” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana. It was the first time ever I was singing it [She had also never sung La mamma morta before - Ed]. I was quite afraid ¬because during the takes, I felt I wasn’t fully able to do what I wanted. When I listened to it, I was quite happy about how the emotion came out. In live performance, the audience can see the emotion. In a recording, people just have their ears to live the emotion of the song. I learned that everything is important, the way you bite into a consonant, the way you breathe before a word or a phrase, or the way you let the wind go through your voice to give a certain kind of emotion. In a recording, everything has to be exaggerated. This aria had every component for my voice, and my voice could bring this song to a place where it’s supposed to be.

Tied for third are “Le monde est stone” and “Signore, ascolta!” from Turandot. “Le monde est stone” comes from a well-known pop song, and it was sung by great pop singers. The arrangement was perfect for my voice. Each time I sing this aria, it’s as if it were in my bones: every word has a meaning. I know every comma; I feel that song in my skin. When I sing it, I can change it and go into subtle details, to bring out what is strongest in that song. For “Signore, ascolta!,” compared to years ago, I could see how much stronger the voice has become, how much I was able to do what I wanted, especially go to a crescendo from pianissimo at the end. Many years ago, I couldn’t do it soft and go stronger. Now, its something I’m very proud of.

Marie-Josée Lord is co-artistic chair of the 2011 Festival Montréal en lumière/Montreal Highlights Festival. Her ¬February 19 concert will include excerpts from her CD plus other selections, including her favourite opera, Verdi’s La traviata. www.montrealenlumiere.com

Marie-Josée Lord, soprano
Giuseppe Pietraroia, conductor
Orchestre Metropolitain


Canadian soprano Marie-Josée Lord’s first solo album is a revelation. In live performance, Lord had had a tendency to a quick vibrato. This has now been tamed, as is evident in this album. The marketing choice, to begin with “Summertime” and “Le monde est stone” was an artistic mistake, as the voice lies rather back in Lord’s throat and both arias have a somber feel. It’s in “Signore, ascolta!” that we hear the gleaming shine in Lord’s voice that makes this a credible opera album. Here, Lord succeeds in delivering Liu’s final crescendo. The real gems are the verissimo arias, placed as middle and later tracks. The colour Lord brings to the La Wally aria harkens back to some of the greats. Although her “La mamma morta” is no Callas, she brings the emotion off with her own style. Her Act I aria from Pagliacci is delivered with conviction and a fine legato, as is “Si, Mi chiamano Mimi” from La bohème. The top performance goes to “Voi lo sapete” from Cavalleria rusticana, which Lord injects with abundant feeling. The Orchestre Metropolitain sounds great, and conductor Giuseppe Pietraroia provides sympathetic support. WKC

(c) La Scena Musicale