20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Soprano Natalie Dessay

Classic Arts Features   20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Soprano Natalie Dessay
Currently making her much-anticipated role debut as Violetta in La Traviata, the affable opera superstar donated her time to answer a few questions for this informal Q&A session.


The charismatic French soprano Natalie Dessay is one of the most exciting opera singers on the stage today, equally celebrated for both her incandescent singing and her superb acting.

Now an admired interpreter of bel canto and lyric heroines such as Lucia di Lammermoor, Marie (La Fille du r_giment), Amina (La sonnambula), Pamina (Die Zauberfl‹te), Manon, Juliette and Oph_lie (Hamlet), Dessay originally made her reputation with showpiece coloratura roles such as Offenbach's Olympia, Mozart's Queen of the Night and Strauss' Zerbinetta.

A popular star at some of the world's leading opera houses, including New York's Metropolitan Opera, Dessay makes her role debut as Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata at Santa Fe Opera this summer (July 3 through August 29).

1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

There are so many! Eugene Onegin. Everything by Rachmaninov! Piano Concertos by Mozart _ No. 23 is my favorite, particularly the second movement.

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

There are millions! Alexandre Tharaud's Rameau Suites; Perahia's Bach albums; Caball_ singing Trovatore, especially "D'amor sull' ali rosee"

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

Ella Fitzgerald; Bill Evans; Take Six.

4. Music that makes you cry _ any genre:

Some of the ones I mentioned in the first question, especially the second movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23, and Caballe singing "D'amor sull' ali rosee" from Verdi's Il Trovatore. And Maria Callas singing "Addio del passato from the third act of La Traviata.

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

I like Hummel's music, such as his Piano Concertos. He was a dear pupil of Mozart.

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

Verdi sometimes. Sometimes he goes for facility, but Falstaff, Otello and La Traviata are undoubtedly masterpieces.

7. Live music performance (s) you attended _ any genre _ that you'll never forget:

Philippe Caubre is a French actor who did many plays that he wrote himself _ improvisations telling us his story and his experience with Ariane Mnouchkine who is a famous theater director in Paris. She has a company called La Theatre de Soleil that is justifiably famous.

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

I'm actually too busy to go to the movies very often, but I saw and loved Slum Dog Millionaire.

9. A few films you consider classics:

Anything by Frank Capra, especially It's A Wonderful Life.

10. A book (or two) that is important to you (and why):

Stefan Zweig's memoir The World of Yesterday is difficult to describe but people should read it! Balzac's Splendeurs et misres des courtisanes. I love Hamlet _ it's written centuries before Freud, but is so amazing in its psychological insight.

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

My fruitcake _ I have a wonderful, simple recipe. I'm a very good baker. And my new long nails! I used to bite them, but it's great to get rid of an addiction!

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

I won't tell you!

13. Three things you can't live without:

A view, flowers and humor.

14. "When I want to get away from it all I..."

Go to the sea.

15. "People are surprised to find out that I..."

They don't find out anything about me. I keep it secret.

16. "My favorite cities are..."

New York and Paris.

17. "I have a secret crush on..."

I won't tell you! Okay, I wouldn't call it a crush, but I loved the young William Holden _ especially in Picnic with Kim Novak.

18. "My most obvious guilty pleasure is..."


19. "I'd really love to meet..."

Peter Ustinov. I just love him. He was brilliant and very, very funny.

20. "I never understood why..."

People have to obey silly rules.


21. Question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer to that question):

Q: I don't like questions!

A: [silence]

For more on Dessay, including discography and upcoming calendar, visit www.natalie-dessay.com.

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Tenor Giuseppe Filianoti

Soprano Nicole Cabell

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Tenor Ian Bostridge

Soprano Danielle de Niese

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs.

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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