Opera diva Natalie Dessay: not just a pretty voice

21st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

French soprano Natalie Dessay might be the next Maria Callas to her fans, but when the diva takes the stage she's more than just another pretty voice.

"The music isn't an end in itself. Above all, I am acting a role," she told AFP in New York where she has been performing "Lucia di Lammermoor" with the Metropolitan Opera over the weekend.

Opera has rarely been known for great acting. But Dessay's emphasis matches the modern direction of the art form, which is working hard to shake off its dusty image.

"The change is in my way of approaching my characters. I'd like to be less hysterical on stage. I want to work more on controlling my voice," the 45-year-old said.

Dessay's role as Lucia was broadcast live in HD to cinema screens worldwide Saturday as part of the Met's bid to make opera more accessible.

She has mixed feelings about the innovation. "I essentially sing for people who are in front of me," she said, "but of course that gives people who are far away a chance to go to the cinema nearby and take part in a way."

Strangely, the HD audiences might hear and -- given HD's crystal-clear optics -- see better than those in the theater, something Dessay doesn't necessarily like.

"It's an extra stress. The retransmission carries details that aren't necessarily audible to the public in the hall," she said. "And I've got doubts about high definition. For human beings more than 16-1/2 years old, that's a catastrophe."

She has children of 12 and 15, both of them keen on music. But her views on the world could come out of an operatic drama: "If we thought about it we would no longer have children because of human folly," she said.

She is so fed up with men -- off-stage -- that she has worries about humanity and has taken to riding as an escape.

"I have a new passion: equestrianism. Men have disappointed me and the more that happens the more I love horses."

© 2011 AFP

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