15 September 2007

I'm not really a singer, but I play one on stage

NATALIE DESSAY: I’m very happy about what will happen this year at the Met [and that I get] to show these different things, because I consider myself more of an actress than a singer. I wanted to become an actress when I was very young, and through theater I came to opera. But opera chose me. It was not I who chose opera. I realized that I had a voice, and maybe it was easier for me to go onstage with my singing voice than to be only an actress.
Something new to see at the opera: a soprano who'd rather be an actress will open the Metropolitan Opera's new season. "Singing actresses" (or "acting singers") are so coming into vogue these days, sopranos aren't even paying lip service to the supremacy of that thing called "voice". Natalie Dessay has excellent vocal technique, and I expect her to triumph in this Lucia, so it won't be such a scandal in the end. But I find it strange that stage directors and singing actors are choosing to expend so much energy in the search for novel theatrical value and deep dramatic truth in Lucia's squalid narrative, and pretending that they exist (I mean, really, was the trip to Scotland that necessary), when it's essentially a vehicle for extreme vocal calisthenics and stanza-by-stanza micro-emoting. Truthfully, I wish them all the luck in their effort to dazzle me with new insights, which I'll be happy to receive, but I doubt, by evening's end, I'd be moved by things other than what I've come for in the first place: Donizetti's profuse vocal writing for the Mad and Tomb Scenes, and voices (not bodies or scenery) that could do them justice.