Natalie Dessay in Conversationby Wah Keung Chan
/ May 14, 2005
Natalie Dessay is considered France’s leading opera singer. A favourite at the
Metropolitan Opera and a star of the EMI Classics recording label, she is loved
for her flowing coloratura and dramatic characterizations. Her disc “Amor” just
won the Grand Prix de l’Académie du disque lyrique. Despite worrying fans two
years ago when she underwent vocal surgery, Dessay returned with triumph last
year and took on new repertoire, notably Lucia, to rave reviews. Last December
she underwent a second surgery. On May 8, Dessay will make her first vocal
appearance at the Opéra de Montréal’s Signature Gala. We had the chance
to conduct an email interview with her, where she discussed her health, future
plans and interplays between music and family.
LSM: Tell us
about your singing technique. Your voice seems to be getting warmer; how do you
feel your voice developed through the years?
technical approach of singing is to try to achieve the greatest results with as
little effort and air pressure as possible. Like most singers, especially
female singers, my voice has been naturally developing into a warmer register.
I follow and monitor this natural process with the different teachers and
coaches who help me in my vocal and musical work.
LSM: Tell us
about your vocal problems…
ND: My first
and second vocal troubles were the same problem that was just dealt with in two
steps. We thought operating on the first cord would be enough but we didn't
know that a polyp was also on the second cord. Because I couldn't recover
really well during the 2 years after the first operation, I then decided to go
through a second operation of the second cord. Having only two cords, I may
expect it's over now!
LSM: You are
slowly changing repertoire (your Lucia was a triumph) and in interviews you
have mentioned your desire to sing Traviata. Why?
ND: I am
changing repertoire because my voice is changing towards it. I don't really
choose, I just follow the voice. Why Traviata? Because it's a real
challenge. It's a wonderful portrait of a woman, musically, vocally, and
LSM: Most of
your repertoire (stage and on disc) is in opera. Are you interested in recitals
of melodies and lieder?
ND: I don't
like recitals because it's the most difficult thing to prepare and to achieve.
I don't really feel comfortable in that matter and I prefer to work with a
larger team in opera. But I love Lieder and songs, especially by Richard
Strauss, Rachmaninov, Poulenc, Brahms...
LSM: What was
the key to your success in two competitions?
ND: Nerves and
converted to Judaism for your husband and family. Have you had a chance to
explore Jewish vocal music?
ND: Although I
have converted to Judaism for 15 years, I have never found time to explore any
Jewish repertoire, but why not? One day!
LSM: You have
two children. How does your music affect your parenting?
ND: I force
them to play the piano!!
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