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Natalie Dessay: Airs d'Opéras Français

Orchestre de l'Opéra de Monte-Carlo
Patrick Fournillier, conductor

Arias from Lakmé, Le Roi malgré lui, L'Enfant et les sortilèges, Le Pardon de Ploërmel, Hamlet, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Mireille, L'Ecole des maris (Bondeville), Médée (Milhaud) and Les Caprices de Marianne (Sauguet).

EMI Classics 5 56159 2.

Natalie Dessay is the newest nightingale on the block, but unlike some of her eminent predecessors she has more than just a couple of high notes in her repertoire. Her voice is well-supported, her diction is usually excellent and her fireworks are more than just that as she makes them part of a musical design. The fact that she has appeared onstage in four of these operas whose showpieces are central to the coloratura repertoire gives her renditions of those arias a lived-in quality. Anyone fortunate enought to have seen her Ophélie in Geneva or Lakmé in Paris and a number of other cities in France - with performances to come in Marseilles (14, 16, 18 and 20 March) - can tell you that she is a complete performer, from top to toe. Her Olympia in various productions offers ample proof of her versatility as an actress, given full scope in an almost Shakespearean reading of Hamlet's almost-bride.

That Dessay is not one to limit herself to the standard canary-fancying repertoire is shown by the inclusion of material by Bondeville, Milhaud, Sauguet, Poulenc and Ravel - the first three probably recorded premieres. Créuse's air from Médée makes one curious to hear the entire work; her impeccably sung Thérèse/Tirésias may lack some of the gouaillerie of the inimitable Denise Duval but is nonetheless a treat. There are some surprise variations in the Doll Song and it is good to be reminded how extraordinary a composer Chabrier is.

Dessay can also turn on the charm when required and enjoy the music, whatever we may think in the abstract of the qualities of Meyerbeer or Thomas, without sounding machine-like, a failing of one of her more illustrious colleagues today.

Patrick Fournillier and the Orchestre de Monte Carlo offer sympathetic support all the way from Meyerbeer to Milhaud.



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