Susanna Phillips (born 1981) is a lyrical soprano, educated at Juillard School in New York City. A Metropolitan Council Award Winner and a first prize winner at the Operalia competition (both in 2005), she already has sung several parts (Musetta, Pamina, Donna Anna) at the Metropolitan Opera and is scheduled to return in the 2013 season as Fiordiligi as well as in a new production of Fledermaus.
Hats off to her for presenting an unusually challenging programme of songs by Debussy, Messiaen (Poemes pour Mi) and Faure for her first solo CD. Which was in fact the direct reason I noticed her disc in the first place - an internet search of recordings of "Poemes pour Mi" - there are not too many.
Messiaen composed this song cycle for his first wife in the 1930´s, at a time when his compositions were still very inspired by Debussy, thus the preceding Debussy songs seem very adequate.
Susanna Phillips has a lovely, warm and expressive voice with a technique to match especially Messiaen´s rather stiff vocal demands. It is also a quite distinctive voice, with a quite slow vibrato, and a rather nasal sound. Do I like the voice as such? I am not sure. But it is never unpleasant to listen to. Undoubtedly she does her best with the French diction, but I nevertheless fail to understand what she is singing. I don´t understand Renée Fleming´s French in her 2012 version of Poemes pour Mi either. However the French soprano Francoise Pollet demonstrates quite clearly (in the orchestral version with Pierre Boulez, the best on disc), that it is possible to understand the lyrics.
2012 interview with Susanna Phillips here.
Susanna Phillips as Donna Anna (with piano):
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):