In his latest Decca DVD release, bel canto star Juan Diego Flórez undertakes the role of Elvino in Bellini’s romantic drama, playing opposite the mercurial French soprano, Natalie Dessay, in the Met’s striking, modern-dress production from March 2009. Bellini’s romantic opera La Sonnambula (1831), hinges on the love and misunderstanding between Elvino and Amina (the ‘sleepwalker’ of the title). Discovered in the bedroom of Rodolfo, Amina is assumed to have been unfaithful, and Elvino cancels their wedding. But in the dramatic final scene, he witnesses Amina sleepwalking, understands her innocence, and all ends happily. Mary Zimmerman’s production plays with the dual realities of a rehearsal of the opera and a performance of the opera itself.
With this new production of La traviata at the 2011 Aix-en-Provence Festival, Natalie Dessay made her first European appearances as Verdi’s Violetta, a pinnacle of the soprano repertoire. She made her debut in the role in 2009 at the Santa Fe Festival in the US, and subsequently sang Violetta in Japan. Dessay’s 2011-12 season will include La traviata at the Vienna State Opera (in this Aix-en-Provence production by French theatre and opera director Jean-François Sivadier) and the New York Metropolitan.
Composed by multi-award-winning artist Michel Legrand and written by American poets Alan & Marilyn Bergman, this album is made up of a cycle of songs. It tells the story of a woman s life from birth to death, passing by all of its highlights: childhood, adolescence, first love, and motherhood. Composed and written in the 70 s, the project was never completed. Thanks to Natalie's input, Michel Legrand rewrote the score and Alan & Marilyn Bergman rewrote the lyrics especially for her in order to give a second life to this project. This masterpiece was recorded last September in London at the Air Studio with the London Studio Orchestra, conducted by Michel Legrand.
Handel's operas–the center of his creative life before oratorios became the focus–have spent far too long in limbo awaiting rediscovery, which slowly started happening in the late '60s with works such as Giulio Cesare. But whether Handelian opera is still a novelty or you're already a rabid convert, this emotionally resonant, crisply played, superbly cast interpretation under William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is likely to shake up some of your ideas about the composer.
Mozart's concert arias are not really generically independent from his operas. They were mostly written for insertion into operas by a singer, often Mozart's girlfriend and then sister-in-law Aloysia Weber, who wanted to display her talents to their best advantage. As such, however, they stand out from other operatic arias as some of the most difficult vocal pieces Mozart composed.
The glamorous young French coloratura stunned everyone at the EMI Gala at Glyndebourne in 1997 with a dazzling rendition of Cunegonde’s ‘Glitter and be gay’ from Bernstein’s Candide: it was an unexpected choice but Dessay delivered it with such wit, needle-point precision and sheer insouciance that she won all hearts. Why she has yet to appear in either a Glyndebourne or Covent Garden production – though debuts are planned in both theatres for 2002 – is one of the great mysteries of British operatic life, for Dessay, as her EMI album of French operatic arias (5/97) amply demonstrated, is an acclaimed star in Vienna, Salzburg, the New York Met and, of course, the French capital, where she is something close to a cult figure.