05 August 2008

Natalie Dessay, in her continued progress towards greater artistry, still doesn't know what opera is about

A month old, but we can't let this one pass. The overly dramatic Artist declares:

I got rid of my high notes. They were getting in the way. It is very easy for someone with high notes to impress, even if the rest is not very interesting. High notes are something that people seem to like - I never understood why. It's like being able to fly. OK, you can fly, so what? Yes, it's rather good but it's not enough. I want to give something else. When I had these high notes, I couldn’t pay attention to the text. I'm interested in the humanity of the characters and the interpretation. (When I'm standing opposite Juan Diego and he is doing nine high C's), I'm not impressed. Either you have the top or not. If you have it, it's not that difficult.
In recent years, Dessay's top notes have been shrieky and metallic, cold, effortful, and generally unpleasant to the ear. The disdain she has for top notes is therefore understandable. She tends to compensate with buffoonish histrionics, overacting the pieces of meaning she gleans from the (mostly bankrupt) text. She can't tolerate opera queens, don't you see! She has seething contempt for the singing part of opera, and she just can't be bothered by canto for bel's sake. So I shall match her disgust: I find her schtick bland and unimaginative.

She continues to provoke:
I want to make people forget we are singing. I don't want to them to come to hear beautiful voices, but to see a whole performance, of theatre with music.
The implication being that beautiful voices are somehow incompatible with "a whole performance, of theatre with music." But she's right about one thing: they ought not to come to her performances expecting to hear beautiful voices, because there won't be any of that beauty shit getting in the way of her art.