Dessay, the French soprano celebrated for a remarkable high-flying soprano that has long been her stock-in-trade as well as for her uncommonly sophisticated acting chops, has been receiving glowing notices from the local and national press since beginning performances on July 3.
In a new production by a frequent collaborator, countryman Laurent Pelly, Dessay utilizes both her powerful voice and slim, acrobatic frame to create a new image of the famed courtesan. With fiery orange hair and a strapless fuchsia gown split up the front, the diva is said to have embodied one of the more glamorous Violettas in recent memory.
Critics note that - while her voice may not fly as high as easily as in the past - age has lent her mid-range a richer texture, and she still has no problem knocking the "Sempre libera" E-flat out of the park.
Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu has also been praised for his performance as Alfredo, noted for expressive, easy vocal delivery and poignant acting during the heavier scenes in particular.
The production also features Keith Jameson as Gastone, Wayne Tigges as Douphol and Harold Wilson as Dr. Grenvil. The role of the elder Germont is shared by Laurent Naouri (real-life husband to Ms. Dessay) and Anthony Michaels-Moore.
La Traviata runs in repertory through Aug. 29. Also currently running is Donizetti's Elixir of Love starring Dimitri Pittas. The festival schedule will also include Don Giovanni (opening July 18), the world premiere of Paul Moravec's The Letter and Christine Brewer as Alceste.
For full schedule and ticket purchases, visit Santa Fe Opera.
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All photos by Ken Howard for Santa Fe Opera.