Barbara Natalie Dessay Queen

“It’s not that I’m leaving opera,” she told Le Figaro. “It’s that opera is leaving me.” By that, she meant that she was increasingly uncomfortable to be nearing 50 and still playing teenagers. But she had nowhere else to go in the repertory, having never been quite as convincing, vocally or dramatically, in tragic parts like Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor or Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” and lacking the vocal heft to shift to heavier roles.

In many ways, Handel’s Cleopatra has best fit the bill over the past few years, showing off Ms. Dessay’s high-flying coloratura prowess and her more mature side. Last year at the Met, she was game for the role, if vocally ill at ease. On Sunday, in a smaller hall, with a smaller orchestra and a conductor with whom she seems entirely comfortable, she was more persuasive.

Ms. Dessay’s voice is now an exaggerated version of what it was in her heyday, for both better and worse. The floating, bell-like clarity she used to attain on certain notes may, if anything, be even more uncannily lucid now, and her precision in quick-moving runs — like those in the triumphant “Da tempeste” — remains exceptional. But what used to be just a hint of sour thinness in her tone, which you either accepted as a quirk or didn’t, has become more pervasive.

In “V’adoro pupille,” Ms. Dessay lacked a certain measure of sensuality, and in the great lament “Se pietà,” her phrasing was too curt to build emotional momentum. But Ms. Haïm and Le Concert d’Astrée, sounding silky and suave, supported her at every turn, and Ms. Dessay’s voice blended into the instrumental textures in “Piangerò” to ravishing effect.

Mr. Dumaux, who played the villainous Tolomeo opposite Ms. Dessay at the Met last year, was here promoted to the opera’s title role, sounding forceful but without edge as a confident yet sensitive Cesare.

Le Concert d’Astrée was sweet-toned and alert throughout, with crucial solos from the violinist David Plantier and the flutist Sébastien Marq. The ensemble was particularly artful in the Suite in G from Handel’s “Water Music,” a cleverly selected interlude that matched the arias on the program in vivacity and poignancy.

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Natalie Dessay (French: [na.ta.li də.sɛ]; born Nathalie Dessaix, 19 April 1965, in Lyon) is a French opera singer who had a highly acclaimed career as a coloratura soprano before leaving the opera stage on 15 October 2013. She dropped the silent "h" in her first name in honor of Natalie Wood when she was in grade school and subsequently simplified the spelling of her surname.

Career[edit]

In her youth, Dessay had intended to be a ballet dancer and then an actress.[1] She discovered her talent for singing while taking acting classes and shifted her focus to music.[2] Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister in Toulouse. At the competition Les Voix Nouvelles, run by France Télécom, she was awarded Second Prize followed by a year's study at Paris Opera's Ecole d'Art Lyrique, where she sang "Elisa" in Mozart's Il re pastore. She entered the International Mozart Competition at the Vienna State Opera, winning First Prize.

She was quickly approached by a number of theatres and subsequently sang "Blondchen", "Madame Herz" (in Der Schauspieldirektor), "Zerbinetta" and "Zaïde" at the Opéra National de Lyon and the Opéra Bastille, as well as "Adele" in Die Fledermaus in Geneva.

In April and May 1992 at the Opéra Bastille, she sang the role of Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann with José van Dam. The Roman Polanski production was not well received, but it began the road to stardom for Dessay. Although she was soon featured in another production of Hoffmann, it would be over ten years before her return to the Paris Opera in the same role. Soon after her Hoffmann run, Dessay joined the Vienna State Opera as Blondchen in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail. In December 1993, she was asked to replace Cheryl Studer in one of the three female roles in a production of Hoffmann at the Vienna State Opera.

She attended a performance where Barbara Bonney had sung Sophie in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier under Carlos Kleiber. Dessay was cast in the same role with another conductor. Blondchen in Die Entführung and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos became her best known and most often played roles.

In October 1994, Dessay made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in the role of Fiakermilli in Strauss's Arabella, and returned there in September 1997 as Zerbinetta and in February 1998 as Olympia.

At the Aix-en-Provence Festival, Dessay first performed the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute. Although she was hesitant to perform the role, saying she did not want to play evil characters, director Robert Carsen convinced her that this Queen would be different, almost a sister to Pamina; Dessay agreed to do the role.

During the 2001–2002 season in Vienna, she began to experience vocal difficulties and had to be replaced in almost all of the performances of La sonnambula. Subsequently, she was forced to cancel several other performances, including the French version of Lucia di Lammermoor in Lyon and a Zerbinetta at the Royal Opera House in London. She withdrew from the stage and underwent surgery on one of her vocal cords in July 2002.[3]

In the summer of 2003, Dessay gave her first US recital in Santa Fe. She was so attracted to New Mexico in general and to Santa Fe in particular that the Santa Fe Opera quickly rearranged its schedule to feature her in a new production of La sonnambula during the 2004 season.[4][5] She returned to Santa Fe in the 2006 season as Pamina in The Magic Flute and gave her first performance in the role of Violetta in La traviata[1] there on 3 July 2009 in a production staged by Laurent Pelly. Her husband, Laurent Naouri, appeared as her lover's father, Giorgio Germont.[6]

Dessay's 2006/2007 season schedule included Lucia di Lammermoor and La sonnambula in Paris, La fille du régiment directed by Laurent Pelly in London and Vienna, and a Manon in Barcelona. She appeared in two new productions during the 2007–08 season at the Met: as Lucia on opening night, and in a reprise of the London production of La fille du régiment.[7] In January 2009 she sang the part of Mélisande in a much acclaimed production of Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna's second world-class opera house, alongside Laurent Naouri. On 2 March 2009, Dessay sang the title role in La sonnambula at the New York Metropolitan Opera. It was the first new production of the opera at the Met since Joan Sutherland sang the title role in 1963.[8]

In February 2012, Dessay said in an interview with Le Figaro that she would take a sabbatical from opera performance in 2015.[9]

2013 saw the release of Becoming Traviata, a documentary film about Dessay's role as Violetta in a production of La traviata, directed by Jean-François Sivadier, with musical direction by Louis Langrée. The documentary chronicles the development of the production of Verdi's opera for the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France and subsequently staged for her at the Vienna State Opera.

In an interview published in Le Figaro on 4 October 2013, Dessay announced that the final operatic performance of her career would be in the title role of Massenet's Manon at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse on 15 October 2013. She said she intended to continue her performing career as a dramatic actress and chansonnière.[10]

In May 2014 she released a new album, Rio-Paris.

Awards and honors[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Dessay is married to the bass-baritoneLaurent Naouri, and she converted to his Jewish faith.[11] The couple have two children.[1]

Discography[edit]

DVDs[edit]

CDs[edit]

Solo recitals and collaborations[edit]

  • Mozart: Concert Arias (1995)
  • French Opera Arias (1996)
  • Vocalises (1998)
  • Mozart Heroines (2000)
  • Handel: Arcadian Duets (2002)
  • French Opera Arias (2003)
  • Claude Nougaro: La note bleue (2004)
  • Delirio: Handel Cantatas (2006)
  • Italian Opera Arias (Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi) (2007)
  • David Linx: Changing Faces (2007)
  • The Miracle of the Voice (2006, compilation)
  • Lamenti (2008)
  • Bach: Cantatas (2009)
  • Mad Scenes (2009, compilation)
  • Quatuor Ebène: Fiction (2010)
  • Strauss: Amor (Opera Scenes and Lieder) (2010)
  • Handel: Cleopatra (2011)
  • Une fête Baroque (2012, live)
  • Debussy: Clair de lune (2012)
  • Alexandre Tharaud: Le Boeuf sur le toit (2012)

Operas[edit]

Sacred and concert works[edit]

Soundtrack / spoken[edit]

Joint albums[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ abc"Natalie Dessay et Laurent Naouri ont trouvé leur voie". Paris Match (in French). October 31, 2015. Retrieved December 25, 2015. 
  2. ^Conrad, Peter (16 December 2007). "A wicked witch who made us laugh and cry". The Observer. Retrieved 16 December 2007. 
  3. ^Riding, Alan (23 March 2003). "Saying Goodbye to the Magic Flutes". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2007. 
  4. ^Phillip Huscher, The Santa Fe Opera: An American Pioneer, Santa Fe Opera, 2006, p. 148.
  5. ^Midgette, Anne (19 August 2004). "A Change in Santa Fe Opera in More Ways Than One". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2007. 
  6. ^Santa Fe Opera's web site listing the 2009 season
  7. ^"Met to Add Seven New Productions for 2007–8" by Daniel J. Wakin, The New York Times, (27 February 2007)
  8. ^Dessay, Natalie (Soprano), Metropolitan Opera Database. Accessed 6 October 2013.
  9. ^"Natalie Dessay: 'Je veux change de monde!'" by Thierry Hillériteau, Le Figaro (15 February 2012) (in French)
  10. ^"Natalie Dessay, le chant du départ" by Thierry Hillériteau, Le Figaro, 4 October 2013. (in French) Quote: "Comme je le dis à mes amis, ce n'est pas moi qui arrête l'opéra, c'est l'opéra qui m'arrête." (As I tell my friends, it is not I who is quitting opera; opera is quitting me.)
  11. ^"La soprano Natalie Dessay se confie sur... sa conversion au judaïsme, les hommes à barbe et les Bee Gees!" at purepeople.com (15 December 2009), citing the magazine Têtu(in French)

External links[edit]

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