In addition to being blessed with a natural-born talent, it doesn’t hurt to have parents who are more than willing to indulge its cultivation. Such was the case with Patrice Munsel (May 14, 1925-August 4, 2016).
As a little girl, enthralled by whistling characters in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, her parents sought out a whistling teacher (I never knew there was such a thing). At 15, after Patrice started listening to Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, her parents took her to New York for voice lessons. By the time she was 17, she’d earned a contract with the Metropolitan, the youngest singer ever to do so.
She would appear 225 times with the Met and was especially known for her role as the maid in Die Fledermaus. New York Times critic Olin Downes praised her for her “virtuoso singing” and “very amusing acting.” (He had been considerably less charitable in reviewing her debut performance in Mignon.)
In addition to the Met, Munsel’s career took her to the Las Vegas strip, to ABC and The Patrice Munsel Show and to musical theater, where she appeared in touring productions of The Sound of Music and The King and I.