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Natalie Dessay, Paris Mozart Orchestra, Claire Gibault
I have long admired and respected Natalie Dessay so it saddened me to hear of her retirement from the opera stage. Her fearless tackling of daunting coloratura repertoire and the searing intensity of her stage presence proved too much for such a slight physique. Having built a fine discography with Warners she has jumped ship to Sony Classical France – this lavishly presented first release may be a success in the home market but I suspect the critical response elsewhere may cause some executives to lose sleep.
Graciane Finzi’s Scénographies d’Edward Hopper is a melologue with texts by Claude Esteban spoken over a string orchestra. As a preface, Dessay has selected songs from the American Songbook matching each to a specific Hopper painting. Finzi’s tone painting is effective if unmemorable and Esteban’s texts left me out in the cold – my basic French couldn’t keep up with the semantic intricacies.
For the songs, Dessay adopts an intimate chanteuse delivery but I have long opined that few classical singers can successfully cross-over to the popular idiom unless they hail from the American continent and Dessay doesn’t convince me otherwise. She tries hard with the language but certain elisions and tortured vowels are distracting, her micro-managed phrasing sounds contrived and her laid back cool manner is soporific. The string arrangements are annoyingly pretentious. Hugely disappointing.