Natalie Dessay last delighted San Francisco audiences in the title role of 2009's Lucia di Lammermoor and this summer she's back, but not in one of her signature roles. The soprano has appeared as Olympia is Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann
many times, but for this Laurent Pelly production, she decided to mix things up and sing a role she has always wanted to sing, the tragic role of Antonia. In today's blog post, Natalie Dessay answers our 5 questions.
You performed in this production when it premiered in Barcelona earlier this year. What do you think of Laurent Pelly and Chantal Thomas’ production of The Tales of Hoffmann?
The look of the production is inspired by Belgian painter Leon Spilliaert. The visuals are evocative of a black and white silent film--like the old expressionist films of the 1920’s. In my opinion this vision works very well for Hoffmann because it emphasizes the strange poetry and the fantastic aspects of the story.
Normally you are known for singing the coloratura role of Olympia. What is it like to sing the very different role of Antonia?
I am very happy singing Antonia. I always wanted to sing this role when I was young and I personally think it is the most beautiful role among all the ladies. It is a powerful experience for a singer to embody a character who is dying because of her singing. I think it is great because that truly is our life.
How do you prepare yourself for a role?
[Natalie Dessay as Antonia and James Creswell as Crespel. Photo by Cory Weaver]
I prepare the music thoroughly to the point that I can be free and not to have to deal with it as much as possible. This way I can be free to focus on the acting. I try to prepare myself physically so that I don’t even have to think anymore about singing and I can be entirely available for the acting.
The documentary film “Becoming Traviata” is playing in theaters around the Bay Area. What can people planning to see the film expect?
They will have a window into what real operatic acting can be with an opera director. They will see just how deep and interesting it can be. Of course opera is not about singing. Singing is the excuse to play the role and to share the emotions and feelings of the character with the audience.
Do you enjoy San Francisco? Any plans for your days off?
[Matthew Polenzani as Hoffmann and Natalie Dessay as Antonia]
I love this city…it is a beautiful city. A little chilly though! I love Pacific Heights, the area where I live when I am here. My favorite thing is to discover the Pacific Ocean. And I always like the feeling of freedom that I have in this city on the sea.