Sunday, September 17, 2006

Natalie Dessay's Lucia in Paris

Back on George V after a ride on the 1 from Bastille. Today's matinee was my first Paris Opera production. May I just say, Natalie Dessay is a goddess. No, it's not a very imaginative statement. But, at the very least, it's a true one.

Her voice is in solid form. It's a rich, beautiful sound that maintains a gorgeous liquid tone even in the most intricate coloratura passages, and yet, though agile, it has enough weight to swim over the orchestra and fill the hall.

Her stage presence puts her in Karita Mattila territory. Singing and acting are one. Lucia could so easily be a perfunctory coloratura showpiece. Dessay made the most of every note, and she maximized the resources of this odd production to render the role as interesting as possible. I'll never forget the playful way she balanced on a swing and see-saw in Act I, or her sad expression with horrible make-up in Act II, or her chilling antics during the mad scene. Andrei Serban's physically demanding directions seemed to be a breeze for Dessay, and her commitment shines through. This opening production of the Paris Opera's season marks a considerable success for Dessay, whom we bathed in lavish ovations, even demanding a curtain call following the mad scene!

The rest of the cast (Matthew Polenzani as Edgardo among them) was good, but there was clearly only one star on stage.

This was my first experience of Lucia, and I rather liked it. I read the Met's synopsis before leaving the hotel, and I rolled my eyes at the silly plot. But there's depth there, and Dessay certainly dug deep and found something quite real and quite chilling. And knowing how to turn an audience to mush with a forte high E-flat doesn't hurt either . . .

It is said that Dessay will essay the role to open the Met's 2007-08 season. New York, get ready.

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