Maverick diva Natalie Dessay nowadays considers herself as much an actor as a singer. Many will associate her with the Romantic coloratura repertory, but two years ago she gave up opera to concentrate on spoken theatre and song recitals. Next year, she will venture into musicals, as Fosca in a Paris production of Stephen Sondheim’s Passion. It was as a recitalist, however, that she returned to London after a longish absence. This concert with pianist Philippe Cassard revealed both her theatrical manner in performance and the unpredictability that can make Dessay fascinating.
Gretchen am Spinnrade found her writhing and twisting, finishing the song almost bent double
Her voice is in good shape at the moment, although she seemed ill at ease in the German lieder that formed the first half of her programme. There was some wayward diction, and she frequently resorted to grand physical gestures to create mood and emphasis when she seemed at pains to carry a song by vocals alone. There was much waving of arms in Schubert’s Erlkönig. Gretchen am Spinnrade found her writhing and twisting to convey the girl’s emotional torment, finishing the song almost bent double. Some of it was perilously close to going over the top.
After the interval, however, came French songs, and things changed – singing in her first language probably helped. The gestures were contained, spare and telling; sound and sense fused. In Duparc’s L’Invitation au Voyage and Liszt’s Oh! Quand Je Dors – to texts by Baudelaire and Hugo, respectively – we were aware of exemplary vocal control and a wonderful feel for poetry. And the Orientalist melismas of Bizet’s Adieux de l’Hôtesse Arabe were exquisite. Cassard, a marvellous artist, was admirably supportive and stylish. Left to his own devices, he played Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnet 104 with an utterly beguiling dexterity and depth of feeling.
La Khovantchina Ouverture
Vocalise, op.34, n°14
Le Rêve, op. 8, n° 5
Chanson géorgienne (Sing not to me), op. 4, n° 4
Eaux de printemps, op. 14, n° 11
Mark Anatolievich Minkov
Piotr Ilitch Tchaïkovski
Les Larmes, op. 46, n° 3
Dans le jardin, op. 46, n° 4
La Dame de pique Duo Acte I, 2ème tableau n° 7
Le Rossignol et la rose, op. 2, n° 2
Pelléas et Mélisande Prélude
Puisqu'ici-bas toute âme
Le Roi malgré lui Nocturne à deux voix
Suite pastorale, Danse villageoise
Béatrice et Bénédict Duo Nocturne, Acte I n° 8
Les 3 oiseaux
Chanson espagnole (Les Filles de Cadix)