I didn’t spot Renée Fleming at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday. But she would have been heartened by Natalie Dessay’s recital. Here was a beloved soprano, like Ms. Fleming — and who, like Ms. Fleming, is now shifting from the opera to the concert stage — who still sounded recognizably herself yet was still challenging herself, and who was still deliriously received by her fans.
Ms. Fleming, 58, and Ms. Dessay, 52, faced the same problem over the past decade or so. Their voices didn’t much darken or deepen in their 40s, leaving them basically stranded in the ingénue roles they’d been singing since they were young. This was a particular frustration for Ms. Dessay, whose specialty was cute, spunky girls whose vocal lines exploded into stratospheric coloratura, the likes of Zerbinetta in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.”
Even if your voice holds up, you seem increasingly silly playing Zerbinetta as a 50- or 60-year-old — especially if, like Ms. Dessay, you place more than the usual operatic emphasis on your theatrical bona fides. “It’s not that I’m leaving opera,” she told the newspaper Le Figaro in 2013, during her final run as Massenet’s Manon. “It’s that opera is leaving me.”
When opera leaves you, what’s left? For Ms. Dessay, it has been tours with the French pop and film composer Michel Legrand and some straight theater.
Musicals, too. In 2014, she was Madame Emery in a semi-staged version of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and has played the obsessive Fosca in Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion.” (Ms. Fleming will follow that lead, appearing next season in a Broadway production of “Carousel.”) In “Pictures of America,” a recording released last year, Ms. Dessay attempted a silky Streisand-style float in standards like “On a Clear Day” and “Send in the Clowns.”
But she hasn’t abandoned classical music: A new album of Schubert songs features intriguingly if unremittingly stark interpretations. She made a better impression in some of those songs at Carnegie, with full-bodied collaboration from the pianist Philippe Cassard. Live, the vulnerable yet indomitable persona Ms. Dessay likes to present — that of a victim giving testimony — rounds into a complete, often riveting performance a voice that, when recorded, can come off chilly and charmless.Continue reading the main story
Natalie Dessay: Opera is an art of the past
March 27, 2017 by norman lebrecht
The French soprano does not believe that opera can relate to modern times – despite her husband earning rave reviews this month in a world premiere.
Interview with Forum Opéra here.
Je me suis souvent sentie en décalage, à part, car je ne me suis jamais considérée comme chanteuse mais comme une comédienne qui chantait. Dans le monde de l’opéra, j’ai toujours été mal à l’aise, une étrangère en fait. J’ai pourtant beaucoup aimé faire ce métier mais sans jamais perdre conscience que c’était un art du passé, un monde clos, et je pensais : mais quelle raison peut-on avoir aujourd’hui de chanter sans micro ?! Sauf de faire vivre un répertoire en étant écartelé entre le musée et la nouvelle lecture.
Q. Pourtant Laurent Naouri fait un succès dans Trompe-la-mort, la création de Francesconi à Garnier. Comme quoi, il y a quand même du renouvellement à l’Opéra.
C’est vrai, certaines œuvres modernes pourront passer à la postérité, comme celles de Thomas Adès ou John Adams, mais elles sont extrêmement rares et ne viennent pas infirmer l’idée que l’opéra est un art qui n’a pas su se renouveler.
Read on here.
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