Many venues are presented: The first public opera house opened in but the papacy took a strong stand against the opera.
A pert, diminutive woman not fitting the physical stereotype of operatic sopranos, Dessay began her career as a specialist in so-called soubrette roles, playing the parts of coquettish young women. As her career developed and she surmounted a major vocal disorder, she began to take on the central, often tragic soprano roles of Italian opera, with their accordingly more strenuous vocal demands.
Whatever she sang, Dessay paid equal attention to singing and to her first love, acting. Explaining her admiration for the fiery Greek soprano Maria Callaswhose voice little resembled her own, Dessay told Neil Fisher of the Times of London that "she was one of the first to think like that—that opera is everything together, not only the voice or not only the music, or not only the acting, but a package.
The "Nathalie" spelling is more common in France, but Dessay chose to drop the "h" as a quiet tribute to American movie star Natalie Wood, and even during her professional life she would nurture a passion for the stars of classic Hollywood cinema.
Raised in Bordeaux in southwestern France, Dessay was the daughter of an engineer father and a homemaker mother, neither of whom had any special interest in music.
From the beginning, she had the desire to become a performer, but singing did not often cross her mind. She dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer, contemplated a career as a circus performer and, after enrolling as a student of German at a local university, switched to acting classes without her parents' permission.
When they found out, she told Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle, "they were not happy, but there was nothing they could do. And I didn't even know. I did know that I was able to sing in tune. Whereas many voice students linger in school, taking lessons for several years with favorite teachers, Dessay buzzed through in a single year.
I didn't feel well in institutions; that was not for me. She never learned to read music fluently. Moving on to Paris for further training, Dessay won several prestigious voice competitions, including the Mozart Competition in Vienna, Austria.
She specialized in the light, melodic roles of Mozart and other composers during her early years as a performer, but some of them, such as that of the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute, were among the most difficult in the entire operatic repertory, ascending to almost unsingable heights.
Her voice was agile, sweet, in her words as quoted by Tolins a "bird voice," unusually clear at the top of the soprano range. But it was more than vocal acrobatics that propelled Dessay to the top of the operatic world. From the start she was a singer who paid attention to the dramatic side of opera and showed a knack for working with stage directors on innovative productions.
Baker commented in Opera News. Specializing in French and German rather than Italian roles, Dessay rose to operatic stardom. Her debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago came inas Morgana in George Frideric Handel 's Alcina, and the rapid runs of Baroque-era early eighteenth-century opera fit her voice perfectly, both in stage performances and in vocal recitals.
In Dessay was flying high. She was scheduled to appear at the Metropolitan Opera as Zerbinetta in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, another one of her trademark roles, and her performances were to be taped for a DVD release.
But, after consulting doctors because of persistent vocal problems, they ordered her to rest completely for three months. Finally Dessay underwent surgery to remove nodes from her vocal cords —a procedure that had left some singers unable even to speak. Dessay herself was forced to remain off the stage during a two-year recovery process.
Graduated from Bordeaux Conservatory, Bordeaux, France. Web site—Natalie Dessay Official Web site: Part of that process was a chance for Dessay to reassess her priorities, both personal and musical.
Married to French baritone Laurent Naouri, Dessay balanced opera with a family life that included their two children. I love it very much, and I need it to express myself, and to earn money, and to raise my kids. But my priority is my family. It was not so clear before. Now it's clear," she explained to Tolins.
Her vocal problems, she said, represented "an opportunity to ask yourself questions. Dessay's comeback was rapid and complete, inaugurated with the engagement as Zerbinetta that the Met had held in reserve for her. In she added another key role in Italian opera, that of Violetta in La Traviata, to her repertoire in an appearance at the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexicoand she was even thinking of a return to her first love—stage acting.
In she received England's Laurence Olivier Award, usually given to stage actors, for her performance in Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment at the Covent Garden opera house the previous year.
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