Natalie Dessay Orpheus

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Although (enchanted opera), nearly doubling its length. "It would wake the dead, this music," said Francisque Sarcey of the opulent, wild, and whirling dance numbers.

As much as I would love to hear these later versions, I don't think a CD release of either is immanent.

At the outset of the opera, the set would be a mock rehearsal room (coffee machine, water dispenser, a chalkboard reading “Act I, Scene 1”) and the cast would show up onstage wearing street clothes.

In the case of Dessay, who is tiny and has the build and carriage of a dancer, this meant stretchy pants, a yoga top from Lululemon, and—forthcoming—an elegant pair of gloves.

The Choeur & Orchestre de l'Opera National de Lyon performs it superbly, never letting up on its frenetic pace.

Even the recitatives – and there are many – breeze by, aided by snatches of indignation, accusation, and general over-the-top acting.A bright-orange handbag swung from the crook of her arm, and she held a cell phone to her ear.She seemed irritated by the words of her interlocutor—her agent in France, perhaps.David Gockley, the general director of the San Francisco Opera, said, “She is extraordinarily demanding on herself, and her colleagues.That is what made Callas an extraordinary experience compared with Tebaldi, who was regal and stately and uninvolved dramatically.“What is interesting is to have this incredible, unbelievable way of expressing ourselves vocally paired with a total controlled and quiet body,” she says.This is, she admits, very hard to achieve, not only because of the implausibility of many opera plots but also because of the physical demands of the art.While she could still speak—her conversational voice, surprisingly low, was only slightly husky—she could not use her operatic voice, which is prodigiously high and supple.Dessay was marking the notes: singing them in a tuneful but subdued near-whisper, an octave lower than they would be heard in performance.A trolley cluttered with plastic-foam heads, bald for the purposes of rehearsal but ultimately to be equipped with wigs, was wheeled in for her perusal; Dessay cast a weary eye upon them, carelessly rummaged through them, and held one up—like a Hamlet contemplating the skull of Yorick—before tossing it aside in disdain. Just thoughtless.”Dessay was entirely persuasive in the role of a self-regarding diva rehearsing a notoriously demanding role—“La Sonnambula” is infrequently performed, in part because of its plot and in part because it is technically so difficult—except that she couldn’t actually sing.“La Sonnambula” is rarely played for humor, but Dessay was finding a new way into the work, and Zimmerman bounced on the balls of her feet in apparent delight, offering her celebrated star only the gentlest of guidance as to how to play a celebrated star. A week earlier, after concluding a short run of “Pelléas et Mélisande,” by Debussy, at the Theater an der Wien, in Vienna, she’d been struck with laryngitis.


Comments Natalie Dessay Orpheus

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