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Natalie Dessay

Friday, October 28, 2016

Royal Opera House

March 9

Opera Essentials: Lucia di Lammermoor

Royal Opera HouseDiana Damrau © Tanja Niemann, 2009 The Story Begins… Enrico Ashton determines to save his family fortunes by marrying his sister Lucia to Lord Arturo Bucklaw. But Lucia has fallen in love with Enrico’s enemy Edgardo, and will marry no one else. Will love triumph over duty – or will Enrico force Lucia to obey him? A Powerful Plot Lucia di Lammermoor is based on Walter Scott ’s novel The Bride of Lammermoor , in turn based on a true story. Scott’s novels and poems provided inspiration for many operas in the 19th century, including Rossini ’s La donna del lago (performed by The Royal Opera in 2013). Donizetti ’s librettist Cammarano chose to focus on the more romantic aspects of Scott’s story. He omitted many of Scott’s large, colourful cast of characters (including Lucy’s villainous mother), gave greater prominence to the character of Lucy and changed Edgar’s death from an ignominious fall into quicksand into a heroic suicide. Musical Atmosphere Donizetti’s score for Lucia di Lammermoor contains many striking effects. These include the dirge-like march with ominous drumrolls evoking the gloom of Ravenswood Castle at the opera’s opening, the elaborate harp solo that precedes Lucia’s first aria, ‘Regnava nel silenzio’, the eerie use of glass harmonica in Lucia’s dramatic final scene, and the melancholy prelude to Act III, with its sombre horns creating an air of foreboding. Much More Than a Victim Katie Mitchell ’s feminist production contains scenes of sex and violence. It reveals Lucia to be an intelligent and resourceful woman, who until she meets Edgardo is more interested in the life of the mind than in love or marriage. However, the male-dominated society in which Lucia lives denies her both independence and Edgardo, causing her to take drastic revenge. Vicki Mortimer ’s designs pay tribute to the Victorian Gothic, and form a dramatic backdrop to Lucia’s story of passion and thwarted ambition. A Soprano Showstopper The title role of Lucia di Lammermoor is one of the greatest written for coloratura soprano, and includes an extended ‘Mad Scene’ in Act II. Lucia was Joan Sutherland ’s ‘breakthrough role’ – she became an international star overnight after singing Lucia with The Royal Opera in 1959. Other famous interpreters of Lucia have included Adelina Patti , Nellie Melba , Maria Callas and, in recent years, Diana Damrau , Natalie Dessay and Anna Netrebko . Lucia di Lammermoor runs 7 April–19 May 2016. Tickets are still available . The production is a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and Greek National Opera and is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Hélène and Jean Peters, Mrs Philip Kan and the Royal Opera House Endowment Fund .

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

November 27

France discovers its three Bs

Today’s impressive national commemoration of the 130 victims of the Paris terror attacks was dignified by four pieces of music, appropriate to the occasion. The first was Jacques Brel’s Quand on n’a que lamour, delivered by four popular singers. Then came the Marsellaise, performed by the orchestra and chorus of the French army. It was given in the beautiful orchestral version by Hector Berlioz, introduced by television commentators as ‘the best known French composer in the world’. Third was Natalie Dessay singing Perlimpin by Barbara. Last came Verdi’s Va, pensiero – a statement that an attack on France is an attack on European civilisation as a whole. Amour from Brel, attack from Berlioz, tendresse from Barbara. France’s three Bs.

Opera Cake

July 22

Carmen Aldrich

Carmen at Chorégie d’Orange was TV live broadcast less than two weeks ago. Contrary to the Puccini operas or the dreaded Verismo repertoire, Carmen is always enjoyable to listen to, so even when the visuals are less appealing you may always take pleasure in music and good singing — especially with the cast like the one chosen for this year’s Carmen in Orange. Carmen is really a gem on its own. It was composed during the Wagner era but, unlike most of his contemporaries, Bizet avoided the trap of trying to be “more dramatic than Wagner” or to be sweet and sugary. Nietzsche actually, after his obsession with Wagner, suggested that “Carmen is the best opera there is”, that it provided the Mediterraneanization of music and that it brought back cheerfulness, youth. More significantly Nietzsche suggested that the music [of Carmen] liberates spirit. At the time of its creation that last sentence is definitely a key. In Paris, the ultra-conservative pious bourgeoisie of the late 19th century was outraged by immorality in Carmen. They found the action crude and vulgar. Nationalistic critics thought the music was too dark and heavy, and even complained of too much “Wagnerism”  in it (sic!). Of course there were many who loved Carmen and today it is probably the most loved opera in the world. Carmen on DVD: No good production is available unfortunately, except for the one directed by Calixto Bieito in Barcelona. HOWEVER, if you ever get a chance to see the production staged by Sebastian Baumgarten at the Komische Oper in Berlin you will definitely see something special. Another good example is the production directed by Emma Dante at La Scala — excellent show, viciously booed for the reasons similar to those for which the similar crowd booed the premiere at the Opera Comique in 1875… Now back to the production presented at Choregie this month. You should know that the old Roman amphitheater at Orange is enormous and the show is not mounted to please only the TV viewers, but also the people in the crowd, so the chances were the action would look naive, vieux théâtre, big gestures… While the direction by Louis Désiré in the first two acts was  quite good, in the second part the show took a dive for the worse and soon it all started to look as expected — as one of the Eyre productions at The Met: old by construction, unimaginative, filled with clichés and with poor direction of extras. Better part are the singers: Anna Caterina Antonacci is dethroned and the best Carmen around is Kate Aldrich.* I saw her several years ago in the same role but I guess her Carmen was work in progress back then and now she’s absolutely wonderful in the role. Nothing to add, nor subtract — simply impeccable: her stage charisma, her vocal dominance, her incarnation… 10/10. I am not an unconditional Jonas Kaufmann fan. Two things I love about him are his Lieder-Abend’s, and his singing of the French opera roles for which he arguably defined the standards that will be super-hard to beat in the decades to come. So his Don José was as expected: superbly sung and brilliantly acted. Jonas is really one of a kind. Bravissimo! It wouldn’t be fair to end this note without mentioning always excellent Kyle Ketelsen whose Escamillo was a great match in quality to Kate and Jonas. I have to admit that this opera, when well sung and well conducted, is already 70% success. For that reason you might wish to spend a few quality hours listening to (or even watching) the show that is now available on YouTube: Act I-II  and Act III-IV. * NB: Kate Aldrich will be singing Marguerite in La Damnation de Faust at Opéra de Lyon next October! A few excerpts: Kate rulz! (Seguedilla) Jonas at his best (La fleur que tu m’avais jetée): Kyle Ketelsen Jonas and Kate responded to Natalie Dessay in French:

Natalie Dessay

Natalie Dessay (19 April 1965) is a French coloratura soprano. She dropped the "h" in her first name in honor of Natalie Wood when she was in grade school and subsequently simplified the spelling of her surname outside France. Famous in her earlier career for a very high upper extension, limpid intonation and superb coloratura, Dessay became more recognized in recent years for her dramatic and comedic flair as a singing actress. In her youth, Dessay had intended to be a ballet dancer, and then an actress. She discovered her talent for singing whilst taking acting classes, and shifted her artistic focus to music. Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire national de région de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister in Toulouse. At the competition Les Voix Nouvelles, she was awarded First 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. Also, she entered the International Mozart Competition at the Vienna State Opera, winning First Prize.

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