Brian Zeger, the artistic director of the Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts, describes the annual Alice Tully Vocal Arts Debut Recital as the highest profile recital at Juilliard. It’s also one that provides an opportunity to launch the recital career of an already accomplished vocalist; this year’s winner, mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier (Artist Diploma ’06, opera studies), will combine her recital with a month at the Metropolitan Opera as Siébel in Gounod’s Faust. The recital takes place on December 1 in, not surprisingly, Alice Tully Hall; Zeger will be her accompanist.
Losier’s program will include familiar and less familiar French songs, and its 100-year span ranges from opulent lyrical songs of the mid-19th century to more modern, even cabaret, pieces of the 20th century. The repertoire includes works by Franck, Massenet, Bizet, Duparc, Poulenc, Satie, and Weill. The recital also will also feature a Ravel chamber piece, Chansons Madécasses, with Daniel James (undergraduate flutist) and cello D.M.A. candidate Meta Weiss performing with Losier and Zeger.
That the program is heavily French makes sense given that Losier is from Montreal, although, she admitted in a recent interview with The Journal, “French isn’t necessarily my favorite language even though it’s my mother tongue. I think singers will understand the difficulties one encounters in singing in one’s own language,” she said. (It can be challenging for singers to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits in their native tongue.) “But I have learned how to love that language and the French musical style,” she added.
As a Juilliard student, Losier loved rehearsals, and she finds that she is looking forward to the process of preparing for the recital—the coachings and rehearsals—almost as much as the recital itself. “Brian and I have been in touch since my time at Juilliard and we have both been looking forward to an opportunity to perform together, and this presented a great opportunity for us,” she said.
Losier, 33, has been an opera fan since she was very young, but she started out as a pianist and only began taking voice lessons when she was 20 and a student at McGill University. “I happened to be in the college choir and a voice teacher thought I should learn how to sing since I seem to enjoy singing so much. From then on, I gave up piano, and studied singing,” she said. She switched majors and received a bachelor’s degree in voice before two years of study at the Atelier Lyrique de L’opéra du Montréal. She also started studying voice independently with Juilliard faculty member Marlena Malas and then decided to join her teacher at the School.
“Juilliard was a great opportunity to live in and experience New York and the musical world in the U.S. as well as to study with Mrs. Malas,” Losier said. Another benefit of Juilliard was that it allowed her to work “with all the other coaches and teachers who helped me through the physical, vocal, musical, language, dramatic, and mental development that was crucial for me. A career doesn’t happen on its own, or with just talent. It’s a combination of talent, passion, coaches, voice teachers, stage directors, agents, competitions, etc.”
Although she has enjoyed the excitement of living all over the world, Losier said she would like to settle down at some point. “There are so many things I would love to do if I were in the same city” all the time, she said, including exploring museums, pursuing her burgeoning interest in art and drawing, and starting a family.
Losier, who said that Juilliard was a “great stepping-stone for her career development,” has performed on the stages of La Scala and the Met. She is also scheduled to make debuts with the San Francisco Opera, L’Opéra Comique and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, the Royal Opera House in London, and the Salzburg Festival over the course of the next few seasons.
Despite that impressive list, however, Losier is not yet known to New York audiences as a recitalist, but Zeger told The Journal he thinks she’ll thrive on the recital circuit. He described her as “extremely talented, expressive, and personal,” and added that her musical personality will allow her to “inhabit each piece and make each one different from the others. She is an intense communicator with a very strong sense of personality” that he thinks audiences will respond to well.