Contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux rose to prominence with a string of competition victories in 2000, the most important of which was first prize at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels. Her triumph there was further italicized when she was awarded the special prize for lieder performance. Since that time, she has regularly appeared in concert and on the operatic stage, as well as in numerous recordings on a spate of labels, including Analekta, Virgin Classics, and Naïve. Lemieux's repertory is broad, taking in songs/lieder by Brahms, Mahler, Reynaldo Hahn, and Enescu, as well as a range of operatic roles from Gluck, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and a growing list of others. Her concert and sacred repertory has tended to favor the Baroque and early Classical periods but is substantial nonetheless, encompassing music by Handel, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, and many others. In 2019, Lemieux issued Mer(s), performing music by Elgar, Chausson, and Joncières.
Lemieux was born in Dolbeau, Quebec, Canada, on June 26, 1975. She began serious vocal studies in 1994 at the Conservatoire de musique de Chicoutimi, where her most important teacher was Rosaire Simard. She followed with studies at the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal, where she worked with Marie Daveluy. Lemieux's victory in June 2000 at the Queen Elizabeth Competition was preceded by triumphs at two important Canadian competitions: in March at the Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières Competition and in May at the Jeunesses Musicales du Canada National Competition.
Lemieux's first solo recording was issued in November 2000 by Cypres, an album containing Berlioz' Les nuits d'ete and lieder by Mahler and Wagner. Her operatic debut as Cornelia in Handel's Giulio Cesare took place at the Canadian Opera in 2002. Critics and the public alike responded with enthusiasm. Lemieux issued an acclaimed recording of Brahms lieder on the Analekta label in 2004, and in 2005, a pivotal year for Lemieux, she sang the title role in Vivaldi's Orlando furioso on a highly praised Naïve release, and later debuted to critical acclaim at the Staatsoper Berlin in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria.
Lemieux's U.S. recital debut took place in 2007 in Overland Park, Kansas with pianist Daniel Blumenthal accompanying. Her U.S. concert debut came the following month with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a performance of J.S. Bach's Magnificat. She continues to appear both as a choral soloist and in operas throughout Europe and North America. Her 2010 Naïve album of French opera arias, Ne me refuse pas, was a finalist for the Grammophone Award. In 2015, she released Chansons perpétuelles with pianist Roger Vignoles on Naïve, and she was named a member of the Order of Canada. Lemieux made her Metropolitan Opera debut in a 2019 production of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. That year, Lemieux was joined by Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine under Paul Daniel on the Erato album Mer(s). She returned to Erato in 2020 on a star-studded recording of Handel's Agrippina.
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