Patrice Munsel


Born: May 14, 1925; Spokane, WA  
Patrice Munsel, the lyric coloratura known to her fans as "Princess Pat," became the youngest leading singer in Metropolitan Opera history when she debuted as Philine opposite Risë Stevens' Mignon on December 4, 1943. Earlier that year, she had won the Met Auditions of the Air, a radio show devised in 1937 by then-general manager Edward Johnson. Previous winners included Stevens, Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill, and Eleanor Steber, but none as Read more young as Munsel, and certianly none trained in ballet, tap-dancing (even "rhythmic whistling"!), as well as singing. Before the season ended in April, 1944, Munsel had also sung Olympia in Hoffmann, Gilda in Rigoletto, and a Flower Maiden in Parsifal. The next season she added Lucia di Lammermoor, Rosina in The Barber of Seville (then performed worldwide in an upward transposition for coloratura) and the Queen of Shemakhan in Le Coq d'or. Gounod's Juliette and Norina in Don Pasquale (but only one performance) followed in 1945 - 1946. She sang a single Lakmé in January 1947 (Lily Pons' career-long showcase, performed 35 times at the Met starting in 1932 and 15 times on tour). In 1949 - 1950, Johnson's last season as general manager, Munsel sang Adina in L'elisir d'amore and Zerlina in Don Giovanni.

By then, however, the wear and tear of her premature debut in the capacious old Met -- 84 performances in 12 roles, plus 44 more on tour -- had taken a serious toll. Nor had she confined herself to opera; Munsel was singing troop concerts even before the Met, later on solo recitals, orchestral concerts, radio appearances, and starting in 1950, television. Like Jean Harlow and Judy Garland, Munsel had a stage mother who started her on singing lessons at 12. A conductor in Pittsburgh (before Reiner) is said to have recommended NYC vocal training, but back home Patrice was still captain of the girls' football team and the high-school lead in Pirates of Penzance. At 16, Eunice Munsel took her daughter to NYC for vocal, acting, language, and operatic lessons, which led to the Met audition triumph. It was not until Rosina in 1944, however, that she beguiled NYC critics, who had complained her voice was unready for earlier roles.

When Rudolf Bing succeeded Johnson, he lightened her repertoire, starting with Adele in the 1950 Fledermaus in English, staged by Garson Kanin. While continuing to sing Zerlina under Reiner's direction, she added Despina in Così fan tutte and Musetta in December 1951, the former one of her most popular roles. In 1956 Bing cast her as Offenbach's La perichole in a new Cyril Ritchard production, which she sang 21 times in the house and on tour (and on RCA's recording). In 1958, her last year at the Met, Munsel added a single Mimì but by this time had starred in Melba, an 1953 MGM biopic, and made the transition to television. Max Liebman's TV productions of The Great Waltz and Naughty Marietta enjoyed theater screenings as well. A regular on The Firestone Hour in the 1950s, Patrice Munsel had her own TV show for a season, 1957 - 1958, produced by Larry Gelbart.

Within weeks after the Broadway opening of The King and I, Munsel recorded Anna's music with Merrill, Dinah Shore, and Tony Martin. With Stevens and Merrill she also recorded Showboat in 1956, another RCA bestseller. Beginning in the 1960s she starred at musical theaters nationwide in repertory as varied as Auntie Mame, Kiss Me Kate, A Little Night Music, and Carousel, continuing for more than 20 years. Read less
Browse 1-10 of 10 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Alfred Drake - Bell Telephone Hour, 1959-1962
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4538 Release Date: 09/13/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Various
    Performer:  Alfred Drake,  Patrice Munsel,  Sally Ann Howes
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  • 2.
    Carousel - Studio Cast Recording / Robert Merrill, Patrice Munsel, Florence Henderson
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 91289 Release Date: 06/14/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Rodgers
    Performer:  Florence Henderson,  Patrice Munsel,  Gloria Lane,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Lehman Engel
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  • 3.
    Lehar: The Merry Widow - 1964 Music Theater Of Lincoln Center Cast
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 88567 Release Date: 05/17/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Franz Lehár
    Performer:  Frank Porretta,  Patrice Munsel,  Bob Wright,  Siegfried Arno  ... 
    Conductor:  Franz Allers
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  • 4.
    The King And I / 1964 Lincoln Center Cast Recording
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 50134 Release Date: 05/19/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Rodgers
    Performer:  Patrice Munsel,  Tony Martin,  Dinah Shore,  Robert Merrill  ... 
    Conductor:  Franz Allers
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Studio Orchestra
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  • 5.
    Prima Voce - Giuseppe Di Stefano Sings Verdi & Puccini
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: 7957 Release Date: 04/14/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Maria Callas,  Giuseppe Di Stefano,  Melchiorre Luise,  Tito Gobbi  ... 
    Conductor:  Victor De Sabata,  Gianandrea Gavazzeni,  Renato Cellini,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 6.
    Carousel / 1965 Broadway Revival Cast
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 92871 Release Date: 02/03/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Rodgers
    Performer:  Robert Merrill,  Patrice Munsel,  Doretta Morrow,  John Raitt  ... 
    Conductor:  Lehman Engel,  Jay Blackton,  Franz Allers
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 7.
    Voice Of Firestone - Great Sopranos / Steber, Sutherland, Price, Et Al
    Label: Kultur Video   Catalog: 2442 Release Date: 11/16/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Oscar Straus,  Victor Herbert,  Johann Strauss Jr.,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  ... 
    Performer:  Eleanor Steber,  Jeanette MacDonald,  Patrice Munsel,  Roberta Peters  ... 
    DVD: $18.99
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  • 8.
    Herbert: Naughty Marietta / Munsel, Drake
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4248 Release Date: 11/11/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Victor Herbert
    Performer:  Alfred Drake,  Patrice Munsel
    Conductor:  Charles Sanford
    DVD: $28.99
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  • 9.
    The Great Waltz (1955)
    Label: Video Artists International   Catalog: 4249 Release Date: 11/11/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johann Strauss Jr.
    Performer:  Patrice Munsel,  Jarmila Novotná
    DVD: $28.99
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  • 10.
    Debut Series - Giuseppe Di Stefano - My First Puccini
    Label: Fono Enterprise   Catalog: 1062 Release Date: 08/20/2002   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Leonard Warren,  Giuseppe Di Stefano,  Edoardo Moser,  George Cehanovsky  ... 
    Conductor:  Renato Cellini,  Guido Picco,  Oliviero de Fabritiis,  Otto Ackermann
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra,  San Francisco Opera Association Orchestra,  Mexico City Palacio de Bellas Artes Chorus  ... 
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