Lucie's madness for this is the French version derives its effectiveness from keenly observed hints in the score interpreted with a full exercise of every technical and emotional faculty. In the three Mozart arias she is particularly admirable. The Queen of Night imposes a glittering, fearsomely precise authority; her daughter moved along at a quickish tempo grows into womanhood and turns in dejection towards a kindly death; and in the concert aria Alceste addresses the people of Thessaly with passion, hitting squarely the G in alt, the highest note Mozart wrote for the voice.
Rachmaninov's Vocalise muses luxuriously, and Bernstein's Cunegonde brings the unexpected revelation of comic grandeur. The DVD shows her also to be a producer's dream, acting out his liveliest fancies, and singing just as well whether running about, lying down or copulating with a fly. Operanet: And Traviata? ND: Frankly, that's not for me. As an actress, yes, but not as a singer. But for my own pleasure, in about 15 years, before retiring or even for my retirement.
We talk about singers who have sung some of their roles more than times. ND: That's a nightmare - after about 30 performances, that's enought. Except perhaps roles like Zerbinetta, roles that are more fulfilling, or there is a text that evolves along with you. There aren't that many roles that are really "nousihing" because the texts are too indigent. Perhaps Susanna, but I haven't sung the role yet; I will in for the first time in Vienna.
Operanet: Have you thought about what you might do when you stop singing? ND: I'm not going to stop too late, I want people to say "Why are you stopping? I'd like to have another life, another profession. I wouldn't know how to teach, I would have neither the patience nor the ability.
I think I can help people, but teaching every day, regularly, for years, I don't think so. I would like to be an artist's agent to help younger performers with their careers. They need advice and attention. And to learn how to wait, not sing too much, and at the same time work hard to allow themselves to mature. Operanet: Have you thought about being an actress? ND: No, I think you have to know your limits. It's another profession. I'm good at singing opera, but that's it.
I would love to, but it's another type of work, a profession to be learned. I don't think you can just suddenly become an actor. The theater I'll leave to the professionals. As much as I detest actors who suddenly become singers, I also hate singers who suddenly turn actor. Operanet: What do you think of the crossover trend? ND: It can be interesting. I think that someone like Dawn Upshaw has done it very well. She's the only one who has managed, her Rodgers et Hart album, for example.
Operanet: And the other direction? ND: Do you mean Michael Bolton? Operanet: Or Andrea Bocelli? ND: Bocelli at least has a technique. You might not like him, but he at least knows about singing, so I wouldn't really call that crossover. I would call him an opera singer who sings in a popular style. I don't know what he sounds like live, but it's nice enough on disc. It's not my kind of music, but that's his choice. As far as the others go, I don't know Michael Bolton, but I'd be curious to hear what he's done before offering an opinion.
You can't just go and do something like that. When I see how hard I have to work, I don't think that a person who has never trained operatically can suddenly say, "Hey, I'm going to sing an aria!
Yes, I could, but why? What I would like is to have someone compose something for me. I would really like it if she composed something for me.. Operanet: To sing in a recital? ND: That's not possible,because she works with lots of instruments, machinery.
Shades of Medea -- one of the "big, dangerous" women this devoted mother of two young children she is married to the admirable French bass Laurent Naouri wishes she had the voice for. Dessay agrees. Even if the role is short, to do it really well, you have to do too much. You have to scream. Dessay knows no fears as an actress. She prefers far-out productions to conventional ones, so long as the result is strong theater.
You can't stay in a comfort zone, where you just sing properly. Characters on the stage go to extremes. You have to express their feelings.
You have to play them. She recently ventured into bel canto as Amina, the sleepwalking bride of Bellini's "La Sonnambula," falsely accused of prenuptial infidelity. In Vienna and New York, where she is scheduled to sing the part in future seasons, she would be hard put to fail. But at the Teatro alla Scala, in Milan, where the legendary performances of Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland still echo in the ears of unforgiving old-timers, any soprano at work today would have to know that she was looking for trouble.
Yet it was here, in January, that Ms. Dessay first stepped out as the melodious somnambulist. No thanks to a feeble maestro and a fatuous production, her limpid lament in her last sleepwalking scene broke hearts, which she then mended with the joyous star shower of the surprise finale. In February and March, Ms. Dessay was on home ground for another high-wire act, this time at the Chatelet. The opera was Strauss's "Die schweigsame Frau" a Stefan Zweig libretto based on the Ben Jonson play "The Silent Woman" , which hinges on the mock marriage between a retired sea captain who hates noise and a shy, sheltered innocent who turns out to be a shrew of Shakespearean proportions.
The prank is in a good cause. Still, the sea captain, diamond in the rough that he is, comes in for some frightening keel-hauling along the way, principally at the hands of Aminta, who goes about her work with decidedly mixed feelings.
Dessay, sounding what is beginning to seem a leitmotif. It's very touching, all for love. But the writing for the orchestra is sometimes very loud, which is a big problem for me. Playing shy, Ms.
Operanet: You never attended the conservatory? What is interesting is to do something new each time, especially with operas that are not new, stories that are not new, music that is not new - try to bring something theatrically new, a breath of fresh air. You don't always stand with your feet firmly planted to say what you want or do what you want. It's a wonderful job, but the most difficult job I can think of. Otherwise it quickly becomes tiresome and boring, nothing but candy. Operanet: And it's in French?
As much as I detest actors who suddenly become singers, I also hate singers who suddenly turn actor. It will never be. ND: Frankly, that's not for me. I'm not really sure about doing the bel canto repertoire, because since Callas we tend to think about that music with a darker color voice than the coloratura. Follow us.
Operanet: Have you thought about being an actress? So do her detractors, of which, like any artist at the absolute pinnacle, she has her share. They need advice and attention. ND: She was a doll, but a bit mad and slightly silly even comical. In Lyons, she wasn't a doll, but a human being, autistic, who was completely awake only when Hoffmann touched her. I saw the one in Lyons where you spent much of the opera folded up in a sort of cage.
Otherwise it quickly becomes tiresome and boring, nothing but candy. Everyone has his Achilles heel.
An opera singer who has never sung in Italian is rather extraordinairy. Operanet: Or Andrea Bocelli? Playing shy, Ms. But at the Teatro alla Scala, in Milan, where the legendary performances of Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland still echo in the ears of unforgiving old-timers, any soprano at work today would have to know that she was looking for trouble. Otherwise it quickly becomes tiresome and boring, nothing but candy. As much as I detest actors who suddenly become singers, I also hate singers who suddenly turn actor.