La Scena Musicale

Monday, 13 October 2008

Ravel: Shéhérazade / Debussy: Proses Lyriques / Dvorak: Song to the Moon, Rusalka

Marianne Fiset, soprano; Marie-Ève Scarfone, piano
Orchestre de la francophonie canadienne / Jean-Philippe Tremblay
Analekta AN2 8761 (45m 38s)
**** $$$

Soprano Marianne Fiset was propelled to fame in a most dramatic way last year, when she won the Grand Prize of the Montreal International Music Competition, as well as the Jean Chalmers Prize for the best Canadian artist, the Joseph Rouleau Prize for the best artist from Quebec, the Poulenc French Song Award and the People's Choice Award – talk about a clean sweep! That magical evening, the audience was swept away by the beauty of her tone and her impeccable musicality. Part of her win involved a debut recording contract. Here we have the result – she sings Ravel's popular Shéhérazade and Debussy's Proses Lyriques, with the famous “Song to the Moon” from Dvorak's Rusalka thrown in as a bonus.

The centerpiece of this disc is the Ravel cycle. The tessitura of Sheherazade, often sung by mezzos, is quite low. However, it does not pose any difficulty for Fiset's lyric voice, which is remarkably even throughout its range. This cycle, together with the four Debussy songs, shows off her purity of tone and sweet timbre. Given that Fiset is at the beginning of her career, she naturally excels in pure vocalism while still having a way to go in interpretative nuance, which I am sure will come with maturity and more stage experience. As well, one wishes for a bit more chiaroscuro in her singing. Marie-Eve Scarfone is a sympathetic and supportive collaborative pianist. But the most enjoyable piece is the aria from Rusalka, which she sings here as gorgeously as she did at the Competition. At 45 minutes, this disc is lamentably short – it could easily have included more operatic arias, such as her “Dove sono” from Le nozze di Figaro. Still, this is an auspicious debut disc and, let's hope, first of many to come.

- Joseph K. So

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