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Natalie Dessay - The Miracle Of The Voice


Release Date: 01/16/2007 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 63332   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Léo DelibesJacques OffenbachGiacomo MeyerbeerJules Massenet,   ... 
Performer:  Natalie DessayNicolas CavallierLudovic TézierLaurent Naouri,   ... 
Conductor:  Michel PlassonPatrick FournillierEvelino PidòMarc Minkowski,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole OrchestraMonte Carlo Philharmonic OrchestraLes Elements Chamber Choir,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 28 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The liner notes to this compilation set give a short retrospect concerning “the light soprano voice which seems to be something of a French speciality.” Michel Parouty then goes on to mention Lily Pons from the 1930s who became a mainstay of The Metropolitan Opera in NY and also Hollywood. After the war Mado Robin was the great name and then came Mady Mesplé, who for many years dominated the scene in French repertoire, both opera and operetta. Her latest follower – and she has been in the forefront now for well nigh fifteen years – is Natalie Dessay, and it is not only the usual hype to entitle this album “The Miracle of the Voice”. She certainly has an astonishing technique: bell-like clarity, effortless top notes, sure-footed Read more coloratura and a trill to match. Her pianissimo singing is ravishing and then her tone is smooth as satin. It is a light voice, though she can engender quite a lot of power and then she also finds a somewhat darker timbre. The Mad Scene from Lucie de Lammermoor shows her dramatic abilities and she is obviously – I have yet to see her live – a good actor.

So there are no drawbacks? Well, there are: at forte and above her tone tends to harden, to take on a metallic tinge that makes the voice less warm than one would wish and her vibrato can sometimes be irritating, making the melodic line less than ideally smooth. Of the three older sopranos mentioned above she is closest in sound to Mady Mesplé or, to pick another soprano in similar repertoire from roughly thirty years back, Beverly Sills. Of present day coloratura sopranos she has to give way to Sumi Jo for beauty of tone in all registers and, yes, smoothness.

That said I have to admit that listening through this two and a half hours offering was a great pleasure and I soon forgot to conjure up memories of many a great singer from the distant – and not so distant – past who have excelled in this repertoire. She is definitely a miracle of her own and here are collected some of the most taxing arias ever written and they are impressively sung. It is a pity that the notes don’t give any clues as to when the recordings were made, how the voice has changed during the ten years this collection encompasses, but to my ears her voice seems to have been very consistent.

As I have already intimated she is at her most beguiling when singing piano and pianissimo – and she very often does, shading her voice exquisitely. On the first disc we meet her in French opera – and a couple of operetta excerpts, which are done with real flair. In the duet from Orphée aux Enfers she is joined by the excellent Laurent Naouri; it was a pity that my copy had some distracting noises at the end of CD1. I couldn’t detect any damage on the surface but it was quite disturbing. I hope this is not present on all discs. The Bell Song from Lakmé is light and agile. Dessay inserts some extra decorations in Olympia’s aria from Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She excels in beautiful soft singing in the Chabrier aria, which is a comparative rarity but definitely worth hearing more often. Donizetti’s La Fille du regiment was originally written for Paris so French is the original. I recently reviewed Naxos’s Italian version of this opera, where Maria Constanza Nocentini made a good stab at Marie’s role, but when it comes to vocal ease and elegance she can’t compete with Ms Dessay, who also embellishes the reprise of Salut á la France quite extensively. Lucie de Lammermoor is an adaptation for a Paris production in 1939. It was foreshortened then and Regnava nel silenzio was replaced by an aria from Rosomondo d’Inghilterra, which actually already had been done at performances in Italy. Here we hear the Mad Scene, which seems to be unadulterated and Natalie Dessay sings it with deep involvement and surprising power.

On CD2 we meet her first in Mozart, where she started her career. She makes a demonic Queen of the Night while her warm rendering of Pamina’s aria is possibly the highlight of the whole collection, so tragic and fragile. The long concert aria Popoli di Tessaglia has her soaring beautifully in the highest register and the Handel aria, from one of his Italian cantatas, is another winner. Sometimes she only just nudges the notes, creating a feeling of weightlessness. Her Zerbinetta is of course a well-known quantity and she glitters so beguilingly. In somewhat lighter fare she sings a marvellous Frühlingsstimmen, well supported by Schønwandt who obviously has a feeling for the Viennese. The Vocalise is inward and lyrical but here her vibrato may be a hindrance for some to appreciate it fully.

Alabiev’s “Nightingale”, a long time favourite with coloratura sopranos, twitters jollily and then she has a solo cadenza by Aglaja Orgeni, which with its echo-effects and hairpin dynamics is hair-raisingly and skilfully sung. The next nightingale, Stravinsky’s and H.C. Andersen’s, is just as elegant but much more lyrical and its neo-classical costume is more strict than the overtly romantic Alabiev. This item, by the way, seems to be culled from a DVD from the Paris Opera. Film music next: Ave Maria from “Merry Christmas” with the composer conducting, a beautiful melody with melodic turns reminding me of Michael Nyman. Thelonius Monk’s Round Midnight in this French adaptation has Claude Nougaro very closely miked while Ms Dessay is heard at a distance. They don’t seem to be in the same studio.

Finally she is the most depressed but also the gayest Cunegonde I can remember – really abrupt changes of mood. She clearly caught her audience by the throat in this live performance and also gets roaring ovations.

The programme is a fine mix and shows the many-sided talent of this fascinating artist. I wouldn’t have minded texts and translations, but since most of the arias are well-known many collectors will already have them.

-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Lakmé: Où va la jeune indoue? "Bell Song" by Léo Delibes
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michel Plasson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; France 
2.
Les contes d'Hoffmann: Les oiseaux dans la charmille by Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Patrick Fournillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; Paris, France 
Language: French 
3.
Le pardon de Ploërmel "Dinorah": Ombre legère by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Patrick Fournillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Germany 
Language: French 
4.
Manon: Suis-je gentille ainsi by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michel Plasson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra,  Les Elements Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
Language: French 
Notes: Composition written: France (1883 - 1884). 
5.
Manon: Obéissons quand leur voix appelle "Gavotte" by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michel Plasson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra,  Les Elements Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883-1884; France 
Language: French 
6.
Roméo et Juliette: Je veux vivre dans le rêve "Waltz Song" by Charles Gounod
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michel Plasson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; France 
7.
Le roi malgré lui: Il est un vieux chant "Chanson tzigane" by Emmanuel Chabrier
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Patrick Fournillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; France 
8.
La fille du régiment: Salut à la France by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michel Plasson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840; Italy 
9.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Egli s'avanza by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano), Nicolas Cavallier (Bass)
Conductor:  Evelino Pidò
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Language: French 
10.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Il dolce suono "Mad Scene" by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Evelino Pidò
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Language: French 
11.
Lucia di Lammermoor: S'avanza Enrico by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Ludovic Tézier (Baritone), Nicolas Cavallier (Bass), Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Evelino Pidò
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Language: French 
12.
Lucia di Lammermoor: Tu che vedi il pianto mio by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Ludovic Tézier (Baritone), Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Evelino Pidò
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Italy 
Language: French 
13.
Orphée aux enfers: Il m'a semble sur mon epaule by Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Laurent Naouri (Bass), Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Marc Minkowski
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra,  Lyon Opera Chorus,  Grenoble Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1858, rev 1874; Paris, France 
Notes: Ver: 1858 (two-act). A few passages of dialogue from the four-act version
have been added for clarity.
Composition written: Paris, France (1858 - 1874). 
14.
Robinson Crusoé: Conduisez-moi vers celui qui j'adore by Jacques Offenbach
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michel Plasson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Toulouse Capitole Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Paris, France 
15.
Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Der Hölle Rache by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Louis Langrée
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
16.
Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Louis Langrée
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
17.
Popoli di Tessaglia...Io non chiedo, K 316 (300b) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano), Carlo Colombo (Bassoon), Jean Estournet (Violin),
Frédéric Tardy (Oboe)
Conductor:  Theodor Guschlbauer
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lyon Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1778; Paris, France 
18.
Da quel giorno fatale, HWV 99 "Il delirio amoroso": Per te lasciai la luce by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Violaine Cochard (Harpsichord), Violaine Cochard (Organ), Atsushi Sakai (Cello),
Laura Monica Pustilnik (Lute), Emmanuelle Haïm (Harpsichord), Héloise Gaillard (Recorder),
Patrick Beaugiraud (Oboe), Natalie Dessay (Soprano), Stephanie-Marie Degand (Violin)
Conductor:  Emmanuelle Haïm
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Le Concert D'Astrée
Period: Baroque 
Written: Italy 
Notes: Composition written: Italy (Circa 1707 - Circa 1710). 
19.
Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60: Grossmächtige Prinzessin by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Sophie Koch (Mezzo Soprano), Natalie Dessay (Soprano), Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano),
Thomas Allen (Baritone), Felicity Lott (Soprano)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911/1916; Germany 
20.
Frühlingsstimmen, Op. 410 by Johann Strauss Jr.
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Schonwandt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1883; Vienna, Austria 
21.
Songs (14), Op. 34: no 14, Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninov
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Schonwandt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912-1915; Russia 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1912 - 1915). 
22.
The Nightingale by Alexander Alyabyev
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Michael Schonwandt
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
23.
Merry Christmas: Ave Maria by Philippe Rombi
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Philippe Rombi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2005 
24.
'Round Midnight by Cootie Williams
Performer:  André Ceccarelli (Drums), Yvan Cassar (Piano), Rosario Bonaccorso (Double Bass),
Claude Nougaro (Voice), Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1944; New York, USA 
Notes: Arranger: Claude Nougaro.
This work was written in collaboration with Thelonious Monk (1917 - 1982). 
25.
Candide: Glitter and be gay by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Andrew Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 
26.
Le rossignol: Ah, joie, emplis mon coeur [Nightingale's Aria] by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Conductor:  James Conlon
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1914; Russia 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1908 - 1914). 

Sound Samples

Lakmé, Acte II: Scène et légende de la fille du Paria (Air des clochettes) "Ah! Par les dieux inspirés...Où va la jeune hindoue..."
Les Contes d'Hoffmann: Les oiseaux dans la charmille (Doll's Song)
Le Pardon de Ploërmel': Ombre légère (Shadow Song)
Manon, ACT 3: Suis-je gentille ainsi?
Manon, ACT 3: Obéissons quand leur voix appelle (Gavotte)
Roméo et Juliette, ACT ONE: Ah! Je veux vivre
Le Roi malgré lui: Il est un vieux chant de Bohème
La Fille du régiment, ACT 2: C'en est donc fait ...Salut à la France
Lucie de Lammermoor, Acte III: No.14 - Scene & air : << Elle s'avance, helas, pauvre victime >> Raymond/Lucie
Lucie de Lammermoor, Acte III: << Ah ! C'est l'hymne des noces >> Lucie
Lucie de Lammermoor, Acte III: << Ashton s'avance >> Raymond/Lucie/Choeur/Ashton
Lucie de Lammermoor, Acte III: << Je vais quitter la terre >> Lucie/Ashton/Raymond/Choeur
Orphée aux enfers, ACT 2, Troisième tableau: un roi de Béotie - Le boudoir de Pluton: Il m'a semblé sur mon épaule
Robinson Crusoë: Conduisez-moi vers celui que j'adore
Die Zauberflöte K620: Der Hölle Rache
Die Zauberflöte K620: Ach, ich fühl's
Popoli di Tessaglia! ... Io non chiedo, eterni Dei K316/300b
Il Delirio Amoroso: Aria: Per te lasciai la luce
Ariadne auf Naxos, Opera - conclusion: Großmächtige Prinzessin...Noch glaub'ich dem einem ganz mich gehörend (Zerbinetta)
Frühlingsstimmen, 'Voices of Spring' Op. 410
Vocalise, Op.43/No.4
Salavieï (Le Rossignol), mélodie populaire russe (cadence: Aglaja Orgeni)
Le Rossignol, Act 2: Chanson du rossignol - Ah, joie, empllis mon coeur (Le Rossignol/L'Empereur/Les Courtisans/Le Chambellan)
Ave Maria
Duo : Autour De Minuit (Adaptation Française De ''Round Midnight'')
Candide: Glitter and be gay

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