Obituary: Legendary Soprano Mady Mesplé Passes Away at 89

By Francisco Salazar

French coloratura soprano Mady Mesplé passed away on May 30, 2020 at the age of 89.

Born on March 7, 1931, in Toulouse, France, Mesplé studied piano and voice at the music conservatory of her native city.

She went on to graduate with a gold medal and play the piano in a local ballroom orchestra. Following her time with the orchestra, she moved to Paris to take complementary voice lessons with French soprano Janine Micheau.

In 1953, Mesplé made her professional debut singing the title role of “Lakmé.” It would begin her association with the role which she went on to sing an estimated 145 times. It was the role with which she also debuted at La Monnaie in Brussels in 1954 and Opéra-Comique in 1956.

Soon after she made her debut at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1956 and the Palais Garnier in 1958 where she had a big breakout in 1960 when she took over for Joan Sutherland in a new production of “Lucia di Lammermoor.”

Mesplé also went on to make debuts at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Royal Opera House in London, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires consecrating her status as an international star.

The coloratura soprano was well-known for her turns in the French repertoire in operas such as Olympia in “Les Conte d’Hoffmann,” Constance in “Dialogues des Carmélites,” Philline in “Mignon,” Leila in “Les Pêcheurs de Perles,” Juliette in “Roméo et Juliette,” Ophélie in “Hamlet,” the title roles of “Dinorah” and “Manon,” and Sophie in “Werther.”

She was also known for her turns in “La Sonnambula,” “The Barber of Seville,” “Don Pasquale,” and Gilda in Rigoletto,” “The Magic Flute,” “Der Rosenkavalier,” and “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

In the 60’s and 70’s, the soprano sang contemporary works and operetta. Charles Chaynes composed his Four Poems of Sappho for her and in 1963 she premiered Gian Carlo Menotti’s French version of his opera “The Last Savage.” She also sang music by Hans Werner Henze and  Arnold Schoenberg. She performed operettas by Offenbach including “La Vie parisienne,” “Orphée aux enfers,” and “La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein.”

In  1985, Mesplé retired from the stage and became a teacher at the École Normale de Musique de Paris and at the Music Conservatory of Lyon.

In the mid-90’s, the soprano began to suffer from from Parkinson’s Disease. As a result, she began to work closely with the “Association France Parkinson.” She also wrote a book entitled “La Voix du Corp.”

Mesplé’s voice survives on many recordings including her legendary interpretation of “Lakmé.” She also recorded “Werther” with Rita Gorr and Gabriel Bacquier, Auber’s “Fra Diavolo” and “Manon Lescaut,” Charles Lecocq’s “La fille de Madame Angot,” and Reynaldo Hahn’s “Ciboulette,” among others.

Here she is performing the Famous Bell Song.