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Mady Mesplé obituary | Music

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The French coloratura soprano Mady Mesplé, who has died aged 89, displayed a prodigious technical control that took the breath away, even if the light, needle-sharp tonal quality of her voice inevitably restricted the projection of emotion.

From the time of her debut in the title role of Délibes’ Lakmé with the Liège Opera in 1953 she was regarded as a potential rival to her compatriot Mado Robin, hitherto regarded as the prime exponent of the part. When Robin died in 1960, Mesplé took her place and Lakmé became her signature role.

In the famous Bell Song of that opera Mesplé brought her tinkling coloratura to bear, her crystalline tone sailing effortlessly into the ether. The pellucid, yet disembodied quality of the voice lent itself well to numbers such as the Bell Song or Olympia’s Doll Song (Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille, the birds in the bower) in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann, in which the mechanical doll needs to be rewound to continue.

Mady Mesplé and Gabriel Bacquier in Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, 1963.



Mady Mesplé and Gabriel Bacquier in Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Last Savage at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, 1963. Photograph: Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Yet to some ears the cranking of the winding mechanism all too graphically reflected Mesplé’s automaton-like delivery of embellishments that defied belief, its superhuman qualities providing their own critique.

There was no gainsaying her technical command, however: she could maintain pitch unwaveringly even in the highest register. And there was a genuine thrill for audiences too when she settled on the penultimate note of a coloratura party piece, already implausibly stratospheric, allowing a short pause to raise expectations before hitting a note a fourth higher (the A flat three octaves above middle C was a particular favourite).

The role of Leila in Bizet’s Pearl Fishers was another in which she scored considerable success, while a talent for playing comedy without exaggeration stood her in good stead in roles such as Adèle in Rossini’s Comte d’Ory. Bel canto roles such as Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor, however, were more of a challenge.

The coloratura was flawless and the moulding of phrases always impressive, but her Rosina was a bloodless creation, dramatically unengaging, while in Lucia’s Mad Scene her voice compared unfavourably with the warm, sensuous tones of a Sutherland.

Operetta was a genre in which she excelled, however, doubtless because emotional depths did not need to be plumbed. As can be heard on the disc devoted to operetta in Erato’s four-CD set of her recordings dating from 1967 to 1989, Mesplé was delectable in the lighter offerings of Offenbach, Léhar, Messager and Massé. Her emotionally reserved, understated accounts of mélodies by the likes of Fauré, Hahn, Debussy, Gounod and Roussel are also well represented in the Erato set.

That they are largely successful has much to do with the French tradition of allowing the musical line to tell the story rather than attempting to colour individual words. A particular gem in this collection is her rendering of Satie’s cabaret song Je Te Veux, which is intimate and confiding rather than seductive, with subtle deployment of vibrato and tonal colouring.

Mady Mesplé singing arias from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville

Born in Toulouse into a musical family, Mesplé was a keen pianist, and her studies were encouraged by her mother, who worked in a clothing firm. Mesplé studied at the Toulouse Conservatory and following her success with Liège Opera was soon engaged at La Monnaie, the opera house in Brussels, singing Lucia and the Queen of Night in The Magic Flute (another role that might have been written for her).

In 1956 she joined the Opéra-Comique in Paris, where she created the role of Kitty in Menotti’s The Last Savage alongside Gabriel Bacquier (1963). Her performance was noted not only for its vocal excellence but also the aplomb with which she disported herself in a variety of fetching costumes from redbooted safari outfit to cocktail dress.

Other contemporary works in which she took roles included those by Hans Werner Henze (Elegy for Young Lovers), Betsy Jolas and Charles Chaynes. The ethereal quality of her voice was deployed by Pierre Boulez for his recording of Schoenberg’s Die Jakobsleiter (Jacob’s Ladder) in which she takes the role of The Soul soaring wordlessly in the upper reaches of the firmament.

The dizzying range accorded Zerbinetta in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos also held no terrors for her, though her diction in German and Italian operas was never as clear as it was in her native repertory. Her debut at the Paris Opéra was as Sister Constance of St Denis in the French premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites (1958). Other roles she sang included the ingénue Sophie in Massenet’s Werther, Norina in Don Pasquale, Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera and Marie in La Fille du Régiment.

She made her Metropolitan debut as Gilda in Rigoletto (1973) but the size of her voice was unequal to the demands of the vast auditorium, and although she sang throughout Europe and America, her career was essentially centred on France.

She retired from the operatic stage in 1985, but continued to perform in concerts and give recitals for a number of years. In the mid-90s she began to suffer from Parkinson’s disease and wrote a book, Voix du Corps (Voice of the Body, 2010), about her career, describing the experience of living with the illness. She was appointed grand officier of the Legion of Honour in 2015.

Mady (Magdeleine) Mesplé, soprano, born 7 March 1931; died 30 May 2020

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Is Music Streaming Bad For The Environment?

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The global music landscape has enabled consumers to discover a wide range of genres, sound and artists via music streaming apps such as Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud – thanks to digital technology. Spotify is now the global leader in music streaming with a worldwide community of over 200 million active users and an estimated 130 million paying subscribers.

Based on data from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the global revenue from music streaming in 2017 grew to 41.1 percent of the music industry’s total income of US$17.3 billion.

A 2019 Statista report revealed that music streaming revenue in Southeast Asia amounted to US$254 million last year and is projected to grow to US$293 million by 2023. 

Streaming music appeals to users as it allows them to store thousands of songs offline on multiple devices, making purchasing music downloads unnecessary. 

Numbers of music streaming users
Source: Statista 

Analogue

Despite the allure of digital media, vinyl records stand to be one of the fastest-selling and growing mediums for music. And surprisingly, the re-emergence of analogue formats such as cassettes and vinyl are happening in parallel to digital streaming. According to media reports, global vinyl record sales in 2015 was valued at US$416 million and is expected to reach US$800 million to US$900 million in sales this year. Nevertheless, with the current coronavirus crisis, the projection of sales for 2020 reported last January might be affected.  

In Southeast Asia, the cassette revival is an underground fixture. There are no vinyl-pressing plants here, but cassette plants still dot the region. In Malaysia, the cassette has become an inexpensive format for fledgling artists to get their music heard. The manufacturing cost for cassettes can be as low as RM4 (US$1) per tape, compared to RM60-80 (US$14-19) for a single vinyl record. The high cost of vinyl is also a barrier for many young bands and DIY labels in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.  

“Cassette culture isn’t going away anytime soon. The tape revival, which started kicking-in in Malaysia two years ago, has been a good thing. New bands have something to put out. Tapes are also not as expensive as records. You can now release something that is affordable and also very artsy,” Radzi, owner of Teenage Head Records – a Malaysia-based indie record store told local media. 

Harmful To The Environment

Vinyl is short for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and its production process is not particularly eco-friendly as it involves toxic acids and consumes a lot of energy. Andie Stephens, associate director of Carbon Trust, a corporate carbon footprint measuring company, said that the environmental impact of vinyl include energy used in the extraction of crude oil from the ground and the subsequent processing and manufacturing. 

Recycling of PVC is also an issue, as it takes at least 100 years for it to decompose. A 2019 article, ‘The environmental impact of music’, by Sharon George and Dierdre McKay from Keele University, revealed that the sales of 4.1 million records would produce 1.9 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). 

The idea that streaming is a zero-carbon medium for listening to music is a misconception. All streaming services depend on a network of energy-intensive server farms consisting of computers. Music is not stored on personal computers or smartphones and is instead, stored on servers within huge data centres. 

“An expected by-product of digital growth has always been a decrease in the perceived heavy environmental cost associated with physical products,” wrote Dagfinn Bach, author of ‘The dark side of the tune: the hidden energy cost of digital music consumption,’ which was published in 2012.

Data centres generate an immense carbon footprint. These warehouses run 24 hours a day every day, producing heat that needs to be continuously cooled. This entails a massive amount of electricity, which in most cases relies on fossil fuels for its generation. 

Even though vinyl has a higher upfront cost of production, it may have a lower footprint over time. According to Sean Fleming’s article, ‘Streaming music isn’t as green as you might think,’ featured by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the carbon footprint of a vinyl record remains the same no matter how many times it is played, requiring only enough electrical energy to spin the record and provide its amplification.

“A very different picture emerges when we think about the energy used to power online music listening. Storing and processing music online uses a tremendous amount of resources and energy – with a high impact on the environment,” said Kyle Devine from the University of Oslo, who led a research on the environmental cost of recording formats. 

Streaming may reduce the upfront production of carbon but it makes increased energy demands and emissions every time a song is played. Bach wrote that streaming an album over the internet 27 times can use more energy than the manufacturing and production of its vinyl equivalent. This is something to think about the next time you stream your favourite song. 

Related Articles:

Music’s Future Is Streaming

Will Malaysians Stick To Netflix And Spotify?

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Illinois State Program Plans Virtual Camp for Music Students – NBC Chicago

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Aspiring string musicians in Illinois can sign up for a virtual camp offered by the Illinois State University String Project this month.

The virtual camp is open to students of the violin, viola, cello and bass who are entering grades four through eight. Students must have at least one year of experience.

The String Project typically holds weekly group classes for children, supervised by Illinois State University faculty and students majoring in music. Leaders have turned to virtual options during the coronavirus pandemic.

Camp classes will be held using the video call service Zoom. Students also can upload assignments for one-on-one feedback.

The five-day camp runs July 27 through July 31 and costs $50. Students need their own instrument, a music stand, a reliable internet connection and a computer or tablet.

Students should register by Wednesday.

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Coronavirus: London Ont., Home County music festival going virtual – London

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The Home County Music and Art Festival is going virtual this summer due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

What would’ve been its 47th year has now been changed to “Stay Home County 46.5 Festival” with two days of music to be streamed online.

Tim Fraser, the artistic director of the festival, spoke with Jess Brady on 980 CFPL’s Afternoon Show on Friday.

“We’ve got 12 artists — some local, regional and some are international.”

Read more:
3 major London summer festivals postponed until July 2021 due to coronavirus pandemic

“This was supposed to be the 47th version of the festival, but we’re going with 46 and a half,” Fraser chuckled.

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In previous years, the festival has taken place at Victoria Park with music as well as vendors.

“A lot of people actually start their holiday shopping at the festival and they’ll buy stuff from the local crafters and artists, so we’re going to be working on some stuff throughout the rest of the summer to make sure people still have the opportunity to shop from local people.”






Canadian music legends take to social media amid coronavirus outbreak


Canadian music legends take to social media amid coronavirus outbreak

Fraser says he hopes the festival can return to Victoria Park in 2021 for its official 47th year.

The 2020 festival is running Thursday, July 16 and Friday, July 17.

Line-up for July 16:

  • Saidat
  • Julian Taylor
  • Megan Bonnell
  • Alash Ensemble
  • AHI
  • The Small Glories

Line-up for July 17:

  • The Marrieds
  • Ken Yates
  • Leela Gilday
  • Wolf Saga
  • Terra Lightfoot
  • DJ NDN

Read more:
Summer festivals for 2020 in London, Ont., in limbo due to coronavirus pandemic

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Meanwhile, TD Sunfest 2020 will be held online Friday, July 10 and Saturday, July 11 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. both days.

Sunfest ’20 Connected will involve 15 international and national music ensembles representing countries like Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Sweden, Mozambique and Ukraine.

-With files from 980 CFPL’s Jacquelyn Lebel




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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