• Interview with Marie-Eve Munger singing Juliette for Opera Carolina

    This is Opera Lively's exclusive interview # 190, with coloratura soprano Marie-Eve Munger who will be singing Juliette for Opera Carolina in their upcoming January 2016 production of Gounod's opera Roméo et Juliette. The work will be presented fully staged (sung in French, with English supertitles) on Sunday, January 24th at 2 PM, Thursday January 28th at 7:30 PM, and Saturday, January 30th at 8 PM, in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Blumenthal Performance Arts Center. Click [here] for tickets, which range from $19 to $150.

    As usual Opera Lively will cover the event, but unfortunately we can't be there for the opening night. We will attend the last show and publish a review. In the meantime, we have interviewed the two principal singers, Marie-Eve Munger below, and American lyric tenor Jonathan Boyd (the latter, known to the Charlotte public for his excellent rendition of Alfredo in La Traviata in the 2011 season - read his interview by clicking [here]). Both are exceptional artists with prolific international careers in several European countries and elsewhere, in addition to several domestic appearances, so this production is looking like another winner for Opera Carolina.


    Singer: Marie-Eve Munger
    Fach: Coloratura Soprano
    Born in: Saguenay, Québec, Canada
    Web site: www.marieevemunger.com
    Recently in: My Fair Lady (Eliza), Opéra de Lausanne, Switzerland
    Next in: Roméo et Juliette (Juliette), Opera Carolina, Virginia Opera, and Toledo Opera, then Elektra (Vierte Magd), Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy

    Credit: djuBox Image et Création

    Artistic Biography

    Born in Saguenay, Québec, Canadian coloratura soprano Marie-Eve Munger earned her Master's degree at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. After winning the first prize at the Marmande International Competition in 2007, she was quickly engaged to sing main roles at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Opéra de Tours et Opéra-Théâtre de Metz. In America, she made her debut with Gotham Chamber Opera and Minnesota Opera. She has, since then, gained international recognition for her "graceful, virtuosic" performances in Mozart (The New York Times) and for her Cunegonde who "stole the show" (The Washington Post). Her first album Colorature was hailed by Opera News highlighting "a repertoire that showcases Munger's crystalline high notess and virtuosity, as well as her intelligence, musicality and poetic sensitivity."

    Recently, she made her debut at the Teatro alla Scala and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in late Patrice Chéreau's last production of Elektra, with the BBC Proms conducted by Semyon Bychkov, at the Paris Opéra-Comique in Le Pré aux Clercs, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for L'Enfant et les Sortilèges conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and at the Wexford Opera Festival in Don Bucefalo.

    This season will see her return at the Wexford Festival Opera in Le Pré aux Clercs, her debut with the Bayerishen Rundfunks Orchestra in L'Enfant et les Sortilèges in Munich and Köln, Juliette in United States with Opera Carolina, Virginia Opera and Toledo Opera, and My Fair Lady at Opéra de Lausanne, as well as the world premiere of Paradis Perdu with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano and commissionned for her. Other future engagements include lead performances with the Aix-en-Provence Festival, La Monnaie in Brussels, Opéra Comique, Liceu in Barcelona and Opéra de Marseille.

    On the concert stage, she performed with the Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra, The Washington Chorus at the Kennedy Center, the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and Choir, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, Regina Symphony, Charlotte Symphony and Orchestre du Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean.

    ​At home in contemporary music, she created the role of the Colorature in the opera The Second Woman by Frédéric Verrières at the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, production that enjoyed great popular success and received the Grand Prix de la Critique in France. She will also premiere the role of Madame White Snake in Naga by Scott Wheeler with Beth Morrison Projects in Boston in 2016. She also performed world premieres by composers Mauro Lanza, Julian Wachner and Gérard Pesson.

    Winner of the Choquette-Symcox prize, she thanks the Jeunesses Musicales du Canada for their support.


    Credit: djuBox Image et Création

    The Exclusive Opera Lively Interview with Marie-Eve Munger

    Copyright Opera Lively, all rights reserved. Reproduction of this interview in part or whole is authorized in the context of promotion of Opera Carolina's January 2016 production of Roméo et Juliette as long as the source is cited and a link to the full article is given. For all other uses, use the Contact Us form to request authorization.

    Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - First, let's talk about Juliette. In Gounod's version of the famous story, one of the most notable traits of the character is her youthful exuberance. This is visible in the music as well, with the gorgeous waltz "Ah! Je veux vivre" which comes up early in this role. Please tell us about the character's psychological arc, and how you are planning to portray her.

    Marie-Eve Munger - Of course, Juliette is exuberant, young, impetuous and passionate, and the music shows that in the first act very clearly with bubbly arias and a lot of coloraturas. But the challenge for me is to keep that youthful quality throughout, despite the music developing into a more mature expressiveness in act 2 and 4. One must not forget that she is still a 15 year old girl, despite her very extreme journey. And beyond her youth, I think she is a very decided, strong and intelligent young woman. She has an extreme learning curve in this opera, and she is the one who takes the lead ultimately. She is the equal of Romeo and I think it is important to show that.

    LG - The role of Juliette is musically very beautiful with plenty of coloratura and nice romantic duets. Please tell us about the musical aspects of the role. What are the challenges?

    MEM - Juliette's music is incredibly beautiful. The coloratura, the lyricism, the duets! It is pure joy to sing! And I have to say, my favorite part has to be the potion aria, which is often omitted in performance. It is a real challenge to sing, but the intensity of her doubt, fear, hallucinations, and then decision, with very lush and dramatic music, makes for a perfect operatic moment. I have always been a musician, but I chose ultimately to pursue opera because of its powerful dramatic involvement, and this aria is the ultimate experience in that sense.

    LG - What can the public expect from this Opera Carolina production?

    MEM - This is a beautiful, traditional production with an emotional immediacy, with a fabulous cast, beautiful dresses and men in tights! I feel so lucky to be in the company of such talented, dedicated colleagues!

    LG - You were born in the Québec, as a native French speaker. I am a big lover of the French repertoire, having lived in Paris for several years and having seen more than 60 different French operas in multiple productions, so I'm very interested in what you have to say about some of these pieces.

    You have had some very significant roles in this repertoire, such as in Lakmé, L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, La Vie Parisienne, and Hamlet, all the way from the romantic, through Lakmé's wild coloratura, through Offenbach's operetta, and Ravel's more modern piece. Tell us how they fit your voice and artistic vision, and what your next goals in French opera are.

    Marie-Eve as Feu in L'Enfant et les Sortiléges at the Festival d'Opéra de Québec

    Marie-Eve as Ophélie in Hamlet at Minnesota Opera with Brian Mulligan

    Marie-Eve as Lakmé at Opéra-Théâtre de St-Étienne with Cyrile Dubois

    MEM - Indeed, the French repertoire is a big part of my musical life and it feels very natural to me. I think Lakmé, Hamlet and even L'Enfant have vocal demands that are very similar. They all mix virtuosic coloratura with more lyrical writing. We associate Lakmé with wild coloratura, but the rest of the role is quite lower and lyrical. It is very similar to Juliette in that sense. Offenbach is in a different category in my opinion, especially in his operettas.

    Marie-Eve as Gabrielle in La Vie Parisienne at Société d'Art Lyrique du Royaume, with Jean-Sébastian Turgeon

    It is probably one of the hardest thing to do well, with a lot of quick words in a high tessitura while running everywhere and dancing on stage! Also, I have had the chance to sing at the Opéra Comique in Paris, recently in Le Pré aux Clercs by Hérold and soon in the opera Fantasio by Offenbach. I love to be part of the rediscovery of forgotten pieces in that repertoire, and I hope to do more of that musical archaeology work in the future! Especially in that 300 years old theater where most of these incredible pieces were premiered!

    Marie-Eve as Isabelle in Le Pré aux Clercs at Opéra Comique with Marie Lenormand

    LG - On Opera Lively we are highly interested in contemporary opera. Please tell us about The Second Woman by Frédéric Verrières, a new opera you premiered in Paris. How is it?

    MEM - I am very interested in new opera too! I have the pleasure of singing at least one world premiere a year. It is some of the most exciting work, to be able to help shape a role, a vision, a new creation.

    Second Woman
    has a special place in that sense in my career. It was premiered in Paris in 2011 and was revived a few times after, with great success. It is a "theater in the theater" kind of piece, based on the movie Opening Night by John Cassavetes. But instead of an actress, we witness the fall of an opera singer while she is rehearsing a new opera. The subject is so close to her own experience, that she starts losing her mind, and she brings us on a journey where we don't really know what's real, and what's in her head. We go through every role she performed with her, rewritten musically but still recognizable, the music being almost like paint melting down from the classics.

    The piece mixes a pop singer, an actor and three classical singers, had a quarter of it spoken and moments of pure comedy, like in the final act where there's a complete role reversal when the diva starts singing other people's lines and creates a complete chaos during the "performance". It may sound odd or perhaps difficult to follow, but it made for an extremely poetic and exciting night of musical theater.

    And moreover, this was musical haute couture for me by composer Frédéric Verrières. We had several workshop throughout the year before the premiere, and even in rehearsal, he would change things regularly to fit our voices better, but always pushing for the extremes. And by taking those risks, we pushed our own boundaries and discovered new possibilities with our voices. How exciting is that!

    LG - Very exciting indeed! You have recorded an album, Colorature. Please tell us about it - what arias did you select for this recording, and why?

    MEM - For my first album, I did not want to take the beaten path. I chose a mix of French mélodies that were written for specific coloratura voices. I love French mélodie but it is often written for lower registers and I thought it would be interesting to put forward a program that shows another side of art song, with those rarely performed pieces.

    The first song cycle I chose was Chansons pour les Oiseaux by Louis Beydts, which is a gem of the repertoire for high voice. This composer is practically unknown and I hope this will change, because his music is just incredible. He was a contemporary of Poulenc and his musical language has the same harmonic complexity with simpler melodic lines, but without the irony of Poulenc and with a much greater sensual quality. He was one of the first movie music composers in the 1920's-30's, wrote a lot of vocal music, delicate operettas and was, just before his early death, the director of the Opéra Comique in Paris. These songs were written for a soprano I admire very much, Janine Micheau.

    To complement it, I decided to tackle the Chansons de Ronsard by Darius Milhaud, which are treacherously difficult, written for Lili Pons. And to round it out, I chose to record some of the lesser known Debussy early songs, which he wrote for Marie-Blanche Vasnier. "Les Elfes" gets in this album its second recording ever, since it was discovered only very recently and edited only a few years ago!

    And finally, since often the coloratura voice type is used almost like an instrument, I explored that theme with vocalises by composers Ravel, Fauré and finished with the ultimate vocalise, the Concerto for Coloratura by Russian composer Reinhold Glière.

    LG - Wow! That sounds like a lovely album! How is opera doing in the Québec? Is it popular?

    MEM - Opera is doing pretty well in Québec! Opéra de Montréal, and Opéra de Québec both have lovely seasons, and the new Festival d'Opéra de Québec is presenting new and exciting works. Of course, Canadian Opera Company in Toronto is doing marvelous work, and their new hall is just incredible. A dedicated space for opera and its very specific demands is often what is missing from others companies I find. But to be honest, I don't work much in Canada. I started my career in France, and now it has developed in many other European countries, and in United States. I hope to sing at home soon!

    LG - Let's turn to you, the artist. Please tell us about your trajectory in becoming an opera singer. How did it come about?

    MEM - Music has always been part of my life. I started singing in my mother's choir (she is an amateur choir conductor) when I was 5 years old, and I started being a soloist when I was 8. I studied piano for 10 years also, and I was singing in local competitions every year, loving it but never managing to win. I just did it for the fun of it, always getting a little better at it, and through perseverance, my voice bloomed when I was 15 or so.

    I was then more interested in pop music. I was singing covers of famous singers, and I started to be paid to do it when I was 15 in big summer musical reviews and wedding receptions. I knew nothing of opera. When I decided to pursue music more seriously, I enrolled in the local preparatory college and their only program in voice was in classical music. So, it's a little bit by default that I chose to spend 2 years learning the rudiments of classical singing at age 17.

    I was lucky to have a most wonderful teacher who opened my eyes to the glories of this music. I was blown away every week, with each new piece I had to learn; Schubert, Mozart, Bach. I was discovering a whole new world that was so rich!

    The last year I was in that program, we put together an opera. And since we were only girls, our teachers chose Suor Angelica by Puccini, in a small production with piano. We worked so hard for a year, with a wonderful director who would ask us to give everything, every time. I was singing the title role and I remember very clearly, on the opening night, while singing long high notes, dying on stage and giving it everything I had, thinking "if this is opera, this is what I want to do!!" It was a very powerful moment for me. It almost feels like I discovered opera by doing it.

    LG - Great. It is true that Suor Angélica is a powerful work. Please tell us a little about you as a person. How is your personality like? What do you like to do for fun? What is your take on life?

    MEM - I am a pretty easygoing person. I can be quite perfectionist and hard on myself, but I am also very curious and I love to try new things. I crochet, I play the ukulele, I dabble with watercolors... I am not very good at any of it, but it's just fun! I love spending time reading Bach fugues very very very slowly, cooking and spending time outdoor. When I am not working during summers, I love to go camping, hiking and kayaking with friends.

    Also, I have a secret passion for neuroscience! I try to read every book I find on the subject. For me, the study of how the brain works is such a fascination. And it's just the beginning! There is still so much to learn!

    Credit: djuBox Image et Création

    LG - Thank you for a lovely interview, and I look forward to listening to you on stage.

    MEM - You're welcome!


    Let's listen to the singer. This is a short clip with the making of her album:

    And here, she sings the gorgeous and famous coloratura aria "Où va la jeune indoue" in Lakmé:


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