Mady Mesplé is a fine French lyric coloratura soprano who was active from the late 1950s through the 1980s. Her operatic career was centered on the core coloratura roles, including Verdi's Rigoletto, Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, Rossini's The Barber of Seville, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and Mozart's The Magic Flute, but she is best remembered for the title role in Delibes' Lakmé. Many consider her EMI recording of that signature role to be definitive. She also excelled in performances of new works, and as a recitalist.
Mesplé was born in Toulouse in 1931. She attended the local music academy, winning prizes in both singing and piano, and in 1953 she made her stage debut in Liège, as Lakmé. She then added Lucia and The Queen of the Night to her resumé with the Belgian National Opera, and in 1956 she joined the Opéra-Comique in Paris. 1958 marked her debut at the Opéra de Paris, where she sang Constance in Poulenc's Dialogue of the Carmelites, Oscar in Verdi's Un ballo in Maschera, and multiple roles in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges.
During the 1960s Mesplé branched out into newer music. Charles Chaynes composed his Four Poems of Sappho for her, and in 1963 she premiered Gian Carlo Menotti's opera The Last Savage. She was also the first to sing the French version of Hans Werner Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers in 1965, and Pierre Boulez chose Mesplé for his performances of Schoenberg's Jacob's Ladder.
Mesplé's discography is split fairly equally between French operetta (especially Offenbach), opera, and recital literature. Although her Lakmé eclipses her other operatic recordings in recognition and popularity, her Werther (with Georges Prêtre on EMI) and Guillaume Tell (with Lamberto Gardelli, also on EMI) are also worth a listen. Her most notable song recording is of the complete songs of Ravel with Dalton Baldwin, Gabriel Bacquier, and José van Dam.