Natalie Dessay discovers the soundtrack of her life

I was not expecting to be thrilled by an opera star singing movie tunes. But the new Dessay album has a personal coherence that altogether justifies the musical tourism. It’s my Album of the Week on Sinfini. Read why here. They’ve booked a UK tour next year.

natalie dessay michel legrand

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  • Why does this remind me of a classical crossover soprano trying to sound like a mezzo? Without real chest tones, this kind of music becomes top heavy and breathy, also trembling in certain places – not her fach, IMO.

      • Disagree quite strongly. This is not a teenager we are talking about. This is a highly intelligent singer with over two decades of experience on world’s best stages who knows her voice extremely well with all its strengths and limitations. Her instrument has never been among the greatest but she has been consistently getting outstanding results with it. Here she is doing a very different kind of singing that naturally requires her to stay in a lower part of her range, and the result is once again magnificent.

    • Have you actually heard the album, or are you judging it by the video clip? The album is a masterpiece and pure perfection. Your comments are petty and tinged with jealousy of a truly great talent.

  • This is one of the greatest albums of all time. 14 songs in French, 1 Russian and 3 English.

    Not only is Natalie the only opera singer who can act, she’s also the only one who can sing jazz and pop. Text of all songs included. The album sounds much better than this video clip.

  • It seems that doing a crossover album has become expected of top sopranos, McNair, Fleming, and now Dessay, among others. No one can deny they have been categorized as exquisite artists at one time or another. Someone should do an analysis on what they have contributed to the genres they touched, rather than quickly judge that they are out of their league…

  • Natalie is remarkably candid about her place in the business and history. She’s a superb actress who has punched quite successfully above her weight vocally for many years but who – by her own admission – has run out of things to sing which interest her. Anyone who has done full productions with her (as I have) will attest to her perfectionism and curiosity; Natalie has a very promising further career ahead of her, far, far away from the operatic stage.

  • Oh sure jealousy, if I don’t agree with what you like. At this stage one doesn’t talk about great talent but achievement. I have a hard time accepting that a person who had a career as a coloratura soprano can make such a drastic switch. The round chest tones are simply not there as is usually the case with very high sopranos. Anything else is wishful thinking.

    • CJ – I don’t think anyone is suggesting she can make a purely vocally convincing switch from the operatic Natalie Dessay to Ella Fitzgerald; the enthusiasm for this album is more how she performs these songs as a singing actress, an area in which she excels.

  • Regardless of what kind of tones she uses, what matters here is that she performs these songs beautifully, tastefully, expressively and stylishly. If anyone since the great Barbra can do them better than this, please let us all know.

  • This is gorgeous. Proof of what an intelligent and skilled artist she is. I will certainly buy this if it is available in the US.

  • @m2n2k Funny, the same arguments are used for Jackie Evancho singing opera. So what if she doesn’t have the right technique for it, we like it anyway! And you’re a boor for not agreeing with me/us!

    In general I don’t like pop or broadway music sung by opera singers. West Side Story with Kanawa and Carreras come to mind – ugh!

    • I can’t disagree more with your comments. I believe Dessay has a tremendous technique and uses it spectacularly in that video. She creates an entirely unique yet authentic and believable work.

  • Certainly Dessay’s Fille (seen twice at the Met) ranks hands down as one of the most wonderful performances (vocally, dramatically) I’ve ever seen on the operatic stage. Legrand’s a genius. So, I’m game to give the album a whirl. Maybe Eileen Farrell’s not the only great singer who can pull it off.

  • Mentioning JE, or for that matter any other teenager, in conversation about Natalie Dessay is beyond silly, for the reasons I have already described above. And I agree that there are worse examples of opera stars’ attempts in popular genres. If and when you can show me better performers of these songs, then I will become interested.

  • @m2n2k I am not interested in interesting you. Popular music has more of a speech quality that is at odds with a developed operatic sound. It is not silly to point out the same arguments are used for both singers. “She (fill in the blank) expresses the drama and inner spirit of the song” even if not done in the conventional manner.

    It may be that Opera is West and Pop is East and never a Crossover shall meet.

  • Believe me, cj, I did not expect you to suddenly become interested in my interests. But you do seem very much interested in making your points, and for me they just don’t add up. For example, you are stating that operatic sound does not work for popular music, but no one disputes that and ND clearly uses a very different approach to her sound production in these songs. So far what I see here is several commenters praising Natalie Dessay and her interpretation of Michel Legrand’s songs, while not a single example of anyone performing them better has been given by anyone. That is all I am saying.

  • @m2n2k Using a different approach is a loaded concept for me. Does it mean dampening overtones or using a lower, less developed register? When singing is convincing, it is not partial but a total expression of one’s voice and commitment to the music and text that Barbra Streisand does convincingly here. (A certain 12 year old seems to have heard it too and incorporated its style):

    Sarah Vaughan is in a class of her own even with the slight tremolo that can be expected in older voices but is inexcusable in younger ones:

  • Thank you, cj, for a couple of wonderful recordings, one of which shows why in my comment on November 19 I asked for an example of someone “since the great Barbra” (feel free to read “besides” instead of “since”), while the other confirms that Sarah with whom I had the pleasure of performing a couple of times was indeed “divine” (as many called her when she was alive) – but sadly for all of us she has been dead for over 23 years now which is why in my comments here I have been asking for an example in the present tense. Also, Miss Vaughn was singing in such a different style that comparing her to either Barbra or Natalie is practically impossible, though all three sound very convincing to me in this song. Additionally, the two clips you provided are studio recordings that are carefully edited to be as near perfection as possible, while the raw unedited amateur video of Natalie Dessay was made in a live performance, so it does have a few technical imperfections that are certainly understandable.

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