Natalie Dessay

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Natalie Dessay
Natalie Dessay Montpellier 2008.jpg
Dessay in 2008
Nathalie Dessaix

(1965-04-19) 19 April 1965 (age 53)
Lyon, France
OccupationSinger, actress
Years active1990present
Known forSoprano
Laurent Naouri (m. 1994)

Natalie Dessay (French:  [ də.sɛ] ; born 19 April 1965) is a French singer and actress who had a highly acclaimed career as an operatic coloratura soprano before leaving the opera stage on 15 October 2013. She received wide acclaim in roles such as Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffmann , the title role in Lakmé , Ophélie in Halmet and the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte . In her later career, she took on roles in the romantic bel canto repertoire and performed Baroque music by composers such as Handel and Bach. She became an Austrian Kammersängerin in 2010 and Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 2011. After her operatic retirement, she pursues a career involving concert and theatre. In concert, she performs other genres such as jazz and chanson as well as classical.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

A coloratura soprano is a type of operatic soprano voice that specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills.

<i>Lakmé</i> opéra comique

Lakmé is an opera in three acts by Léo Delibes to a French libretto by Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille.



She was born as Nathalie Dessaix in Lyon. She dropped the silent "h" in her first name in honor of Natalie Wood when she was in grade school and subsequently simplified the spelling of her surname. In her youth, Dessay had intended to be a ballet dancer and then an actress. [1] She discovered her talent for singing while taking acting classes and shifted her focus to music. [2] Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister in Toulouse. At the competition Les Voix Nouvelles, run by France Télécom, she was awarded second 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 . She entered the International Mozart Competition at the Vienna State Opera, winning first prize.[ citation needed ]

Lyon Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France. It is located in the country's east-central part at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, about 470 km (292 mi) south from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) north from Marseille and 56 km (35 mi) northeast from Saint-Étienne. Inhabitants of the city are called Lyonnais.

Natalie Wood American actress

Natalie Wood was an American actress.

Conservatoire de Bordeaux

The Conservatoire de Bordeaux is an arts conservatory that offers higher education in music, dance, and drama in Bordeaux, France. It is one of the leading schools in France for singers and saxophonists. Founded in 1821, the school is operated by the French Ministry of Culture.

She was quickly approached by a number of theatres and subsequently sang Blondchen, Madame Herz (in Der Schauspieldirektor ), Zerbinetta and Zaide at the Opéra National de Lyon and the Opéra Bastille, as well as Adele in Die Fledermaus in Geneva.

<i>Die Entführung aus dem Serail</i> opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Die Entführung aus dem Serail is an opera Singspiel in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German libretto is by Gottlieb Stephanie, based on Christoph Friedrich Bretzner's Belmont und Constanze, oder Die Entführung aus dem Serail. The plot concerns the attempt of the hero Belmonte, assisted by his servant Pedrillo, to rescue his beloved Konstanze from the seraglio of Pasha Selim. The work premiered on 16 July 1782 at the Vienna Burgtheater, with the composer conducting.

<i>Der Schauspieldirektor</i> opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486, is a comic singspiel by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, set to a German libretto by Gottlieb Stephanie, an Austrian Schauspieldirektor. Originally, it was written because of "the imperial command" of the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II who had invited 80 guests to a private luncheon. It is regarded as "a parody on the vanity of singers", who argue over status and pay.

<i>Ariadne auf Naxos</i> opera by Richard Strauss

Ariadne auf Naxos, Op. 60, is an opera by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Combining slapstick comedy and consummately beautiful music, the opera's theme is the competition between high and low art for the public's attention.

In April and May 1992 at the Opéra Bastille, she sang the role of Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann with José van Dam. The Roman Polanski production was not well received, but it began the road to stardom for Dessay. Although she was soon featured in another production of Hoffmann, it would be over ten years before her return to the Paris Opera in the same role. Soon after her Hoffmann run, Dessay joined the Vienna State Opera as Blondchen in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail. In December 1993, she was asked to replace Cheryl Studer in one of the three female roles in a production of Hoffmann at the Vienna State Opera.

Opéra Bastille opera house

The Opéra Bastille is a modern opera house in Paris, France. Inaugurated in 1989 as part of President François Mitterrand’s “Grands Travaux”, it became the main facility of the Paris National Opera, France's principal opera company, alongside the older Palais Garnier; most opera performances are shown at the Bastille along with some ballet performances and symphony concerts, while Palais Garnier presents a mix of opera and ballet performances.

<i>The Tales of Hoffmann</i> opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach

The Tales of Hoffmann is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who is the protagonist of the story. It was Offenbach's final work; he died in October 1880, four months before the premiere.

José van Dam bass-baritone opera singer from Belgium

Joseph, Baron Van Damme, known as José van Dam, is a Belgian bass-baritone.

She attended a performance where Barbara Bonney had sung Sophie in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier under Carlos Kleiber. Dessay was cast in the same role with another conductor. Blondchen in Die Entführung and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos became her best known and most often played roles.

Barbara Bonney is an American soprano.

Richard Strauss German composer and orchestra director

Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire.

<i>Der Rosenkavalier</i> opera by Richard Strauss

Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59, is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière's comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. It was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911 under the direction of Max Reinhardt, Ernst von Schuch conducting. Until the premiere the working title was Ochs auf Lerchenau.

In October 1994, Dessay made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in the role of Fiakermilli in Strauss's Arabella , and returned there in September 1997 as Zerbinetta and in February 1998 as Olympia. In 1997 she made a recording of Lakmé with the tenor Gregory Kunde, baritone José van Dam and mezzo-soprano Delphine Haidan

Metropolitan Opera opera company in Manhattan, New York City

The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company based in New York City, resident at the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager. As of 2018, the company's current music director is Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

<i>Arabella</i> lyric comedy/opera by Richard Strauss

Arabella, Op. 79, is a lyric comedy, or opera, in three acts by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, their sixth and last operatic collaboration.

Gregory Kunde is an American operatic tenor particularly associated with the French and Italian repertoires.

At the Aix-en-Provence Festival, Dessay first performed the role of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute . Although she was hesitant to perform the role, saying she did not want to play evil characters, director Robert Carsen convinced her that this Queen would be different, almost a sister to Pamina; Dessay agreed to do the role.

Vocal problems and surgery

During the 2001–2002 season in Vienna, she began to experience vocal difficulties and had to be replaced in almost all of the performances of La sonnambula . Subsequently, she was forced to cancel several other performances, including the French version of Lucia di Lammermoor in Lyon and a Zerbinetta at the Royal Opera House in London. She withdrew from the stage and underwent surgery to remove a vocal cord nodule in July 2002. [3]

Return to opera

In the summer of 2003, Dessay gave her first US recital in Santa Fe. She was so attracted to New Mexico in general and to Santa Fe in particular that the Santa Fe Opera quickly rearranged its schedule to feature her in a new production of La sonnambula during the 2004 season. [4] [5] She returned to Santa Fe in the 2006 season as Pamina in The Magic Flute and gave her first performance in the role of Violetta in La traviata [1] there on 3 July 2009 in a production staged by Laurent Pelly. Her husband, Laurent Naouri, appeared as her lover's father, Giorgio Germont. [6]

Dessay's 2006/2007 season schedule included Lucia di Lammermoor and La sonnambula in Paris, La fille du régiment directed by Laurent Pelly in London and Vienna, and a Manon in Barcelona. She appeared in two new productions during the 2007–08 season at the Met: as Lucia on opening night, and in a reprise of the London production of La fille du régiment. [7] In January 2009 she sang the part of Mélisande in a much acclaimed production of Pelléas et Mélisande by Claude Debussy at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna's second world-class opera house, alongside Laurent Naouri. On 2 March 2009, Dessay sang the title role in La sonnambula at the New York Metropolitan Opera. It was the first new production of the opera at the Met since Joan Sutherland sang the title role in 1963. [8]

Return to acting and recording career

In February 2012, Dessay said in an interview with Le Figaro that she would take a sabbatical from opera performance in 2015. [9]

2013 saw the release of Becoming Traviata , a documentary film about Dessay's role as Violetta in a production of La traviata, directed by Jean-François Sivadier, with musical direction by Louis Langrée. The documentary chronicles the development of the production of Verdi's opera for the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France and subsequently staged for her at the Vienna State Opera.

In an interview published in Le Figaro on 4 October 2013, Dessay announced that the final operatic performance of her career would be in the title role of Massenet's Manon at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse on 15 October 2013. She said she intended to continue her performing career as a dramatic actress and chansonnière. [10]

In May 2014 she released a new album, Rio-Paris.

Awards and honors

Personal life

Dessay is married to the bass-baritone Laurent Naouri, and she converted to his Jewish faith. [18] The couple have two children. [1]

Operatic repertory

AdeleJ. Strauss II Die Fledermaus
AdinaDonizetti L'elisir d'amore
AithraR. Strauss Die ägyptische Helena
AminaBellini La sonnambula
AmintaR. Strauss Die schweigsame Frau
AntoniaOffenbach Les contes d'Hoffmann
AspasiaMozart Mitridate, re di Ponto
BarbarinaMozart Le nozze di figaro
BettinaBizet Don Procopio
BlondeMozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail
CleopatraHandel Giulio Cesare
ElisaMozart Il re pastore
EurydiceOffenbach Orphée aux enfers
FatimeRameau Les Indes galantes
FiakermilliR. Strauss Arabella
GildaVerdi Rigoletto
HébéRameau Les Indes galantes
Italian SingerR. Strauss Capriccio
JulietteGounod Roméo et Juliette
Königin der NachtMozart Die Zauberflöte
KonstanzeMozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail
La MusicaMonteverdi L'Orfeo
LakméDelibes Lakmé
LuciaDonizetti Lucia di Lammermoor
LucieDonizetti Lucie de Lammermoor
Madame HerzMozart Der Schauspieldirektor
ManonMassenet Manon
Mariannede Musset Les Caprices de Marianne
MarieDonizetti La fille du régiment
MélisandeDebussy Pelléas et Mélisande
MorganaHandel Alcina
MusettaPuccini La bohème
NéméaAdam Si j'étais roi
Nightingale (Rossignol)Stravinsky The Nightingale
OlympiaOffenbach Les contes d'Hoffmann
Ophélie (Ophelia)Thomas Hamlet
PaminaMozart Die Zauberflöte
SophieR. Strauss Der Rosenkavalier
TytaniaBritten A Midsummer Night's Dream
A little girlMéhul Joseph
Violante Francesco Gnecco  [ it ]La prova di un'opera seria
ViolettaVerdi La traviata
Waldvogel (woodbird)Wagner Siegfried
ZaideMozart Zaide
ZdenkaR. Strauss Arabella
ZerbinettaR. Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos
ZimaRameau Les Indes galantes




Solo recitals and collaborations

  • Mozart: Concert Arias (1995)
  • French Opera Arias (1996)
  • Vocalises (1998)
  • Mozart Heroines (2000)
  • Handel: Arcadian Duets (2002)
  • French Opera Arias (2003)
  • Claude Nougaro: La note bleue (2004)
  • Delirio: Handel Cantatas (2006)
  • Italian Opera Arias (Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi) (2007)
  • David Linx: Changing Faces (2007)
  • The Miracle of the Voice (2006, compilation)
  • Lamenti (2008)
  • Bach: Cantatas (2009)
  • Mad Scenes (2009, compilation)
  • Quatuor Ebène: Fiction (2010)
  • Strauss: Amor (Opera Scenes and Lieder) (2010)
  • Handel: Cleopatra (2011)
  • Une fête Baroque (2012, live)
  • Debussy: Clair de lune (2012)
  • Alexandre Tharaud: Le Boeuf sur le toit (2012)
  • Rio - Paris (2014)
  • De l'opéra à la chanson (2014, compilation)
  • Fiançailles pour rire: Mélodies françaises (2015)
  • Baroque (2015, compilation)
  • Pictures of America (2016)
  • Schubert: Lieder (2017)
  • Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (2017)


Sacred and concert works

Soundtrack / spoken

Joint albums

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  1. 1 2 3 "Natalie Dessay et Laurent Naouri ont trouvé leur voie". Paris Match (in French). 31 October 2015. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  2. Conrad, Peter (16 December 2007). "A wicked witch who made us laugh and cry". The Observer . Retrieved 16 December 2007.
  3. Riding, Alan (23 March 2003). "Saying Goodbye to the Magic Flutes". The New York Times . Retrieved 16 December 2007.
  4. Phillip Huscher, The Santa Fe Opera: An American Pioneer, Santa Fe Opera, 2006, p. 148.
  5. Midgette, Anne (19 August 2004). "A Change in Santa Fe Opera in More Ways Than One". The New York Times . Retrieved 29 December 2007.
  6. Santa Fe Opera's web site listing the 2009 season
  7. "Met to Add Seven New Productions for 2007–8" by Daniel J. Wakin, The New York Times , (27 February 2007)
  8. Dessay, Natalie (Soprano), Metropolitan Opera Database. Accessed 6 October 2013.
  9. "Natalie Dessay: 'Je veux change de monde!'" by Thierry Hillériteau, Le Figaro (15 February 2012) (in French)
  10. "Natalie Dessay, le chant du départ" by Thierry Hillériteau, Le Figaro , 4 October 2013. (in French) Quote: "Comme je le dis à mes amis, ce n'est pas moi qui arrête l'opéra, c'est l'opéra qui m'arrête." (As I tell my friends, it is not I who is quitting opera; opera is quitting me.)
  11. "(33345) Nataliedessay = 1998 XC14". Minor Planet Center . Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  12. "2018 : 25ème anniversaire des Victoires de la Musique Classique". Opera Online (in French). 13 February 2018.
  13. 1 2 "Biographie". Ôlyrix (in French). Retrieved 3 November 2018.
  14. "The Winners of the 2008 OPERA NEWS Awards are…". Opera News . 4 August 2008.
  15. "Un prix "in honorem" pour Natalie Dessay". Le Monde (in French). 22 November 2008.
  16. "Artist Biography". Vienna State Opera . Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  17. "Natalie Dessay et Jean-Michel Jarre : Pour eux, le 14 juillet était particulier". Purepeople (in French). 14 July 2011.
  18. "La soprano Natalie Dessay se confie sur... sa conversion au judaïsme, les hommes à barbe et les Bee Gees!" at (15 December 2009), citing the magazine Têtu (in French)