Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Article excerpt

Comparisons may be odious and superlatives tedious, but when speaking of Marie-Nicole Lemieux, it is rather difficult to avoid either. Lemieux is the young contralto who burst upon the scene earlier this year when she won three prestigious competitions in the space of three months. There were whispered comparisons with Maureen Forrester and a young Kathleen Ferrier. Simply put, the 24-year-old native of Dolbeau, Quebec, is a remarkable talent.

In the spring of 2000, she followed her first prize at the l'Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivieres competition by capturing the Prix Joseph Rouleau and its $10,000 award. Less than a month later, she was named the first prize-winner at the Reine Elizabeth International Competition in Brussels, where she beat out 140 other contestants. (The jury included such famed singers as Joan Sutherland, Jose van Dam, Grace Bumbry, Leila Cuberli and Luigi Alva.) She was also awarded the special Reine Fabiola lieder prize at the competition.

All this acclaim would doubtless throw most young singers for a loop, but Lemieux is no ordinary young artist. She has a natural self-assurance, as well as both a personal and musical maturity that are striking and refreshing. "I prefer to take one day at a time, because I believe that everything has its own time line," she says, adding with a smile, "For example, I hope one day to be able to sing Dalila, but perhaps in 10 years...."

Lemieux is equally sanguine and wise about her vocal development. She insists she is not a mezzo, and doesn't have the voice for the dramatic mezzo parts. "I am a contralto--a young contralto, but a contralto nonetheless," she says firmly. "With age, my voice should darken naturally, and I should be able to develop both power and range, especially the top of the voice. But believe me, I know I still have a great deal of work to do with my teacher, Marie Daveluy."

Lemieux has worked with Daveluy (who is also Karina Gauvin's teacher) since arriving at the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal from Dolbeau. Her parents had both been enthusiastic amateur singers, and at a relatively early age, Lemieux decided she wanted to sing professionally. After graduating from the Conservatoire with the first prize in singing, she went on the competition trail while perfecting her technique and expanding her repertoire. That repertoire is, at present, made up primarily of song and oratorio rather than opera. As a contralto, operatic roles are none too common, but the Rossini and Tchaikovsky she has performed in competitions seem tailor-made to her abilities, as does the Baroque repertoire. …

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