Thursday, October 11, 2007

Soprano on a mission

My new favorite opera singer got interviewed on Charlie Rose the other night, and I think it makes interesting viewing for anyone who cares about opera's relevance to the modern world. It also includes some breathtaking clips of Lucia's Mad Scene (near the beginning, near minute 17, and at the end, if you want to skip right to them.)

Dessay is articulate about her artistic goals and deals well with Charlie, who treats some of what she says with incredulity. Also, she's fun to watch--even when she's not playing a role, she has a very expressive face with huge eyes. The Lucia advertisements all over NYC--Dessay looking distraught, her mascara running, alongside the quasi-clever slogan YOU'D BE MAD TO MISS IT--are quite arresting. (Dessay to Rose: "I own the buses in this city!") A lot of the women I met in France--especially my two host mothers--could be described as "intense," and Natalie Dessay seems like another of these intense French women.

Indeed, the interview shows her as ambitious, perfectionistic, determined--I apologize for the semi-snarky "maybe it's her press agent" comment in my earlier post. No, it's clear that Dessay sees herself as carrying a heavy responsibility on her slender shoulders: making opera fresh and relevant and above all, theatrical. It's like she's read Peter Brook: "My dream would be an empty stage. Empty. One chair. And, bodies. The bodies of the singers, but, singers able to act and to play as actors."

For more proof that Dessay really knows what she's talking about, she provides a concise and accurate definition of what you need to be good at comedy: Energy, rhythm, and taking everything seriously (that is, it never works if you try to "be funny"). Couldn't have said it better myself.

Dessay names Maria Callas as her greatest inspiration in her quest to bring theater to opera, and says that if she could play any role in a movie, she'd tackle Sophie's Choice ("I love so much Meryl Streep, it's my favorite actress"). Oddly enough, I've mentioned both Callas and Streep here in the past week. Natalie, are you a covert reader of marissabidilla?

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