I continue to adore my belle Française, the lovely Natalie Dessay. For the first time since Jennifer Larmore's one, I remembered to listen yesterday to the Thursday 'Appointment' on Concert FM - Thursdays are more or less always singers. Usually I don't listen to it: either because I forget, or because it's Jon Vickers. But I spotted Natalie's name in the programming listings several weeks ago and somehow I actually managed to retain the information, and listen to the show.
I do wish, though, that there was slightly less singing in these 'Appointments'. They're hour long interviews with Jon Tolansky, but in fact the interview probably amounts to only ten or fifteen minutes of the whole. Not that I mind forty five minutes of Natalie, naturally, but I can listen to a CD any time: what I'm really interested in is hearing Natalie speak. Because firstly, she's very interesting, and secondly, she has a wonderful French accent. (I'm a fool for a good accent.) Nevertheless, it was good fun. Jon Tolansky is an excellent interviewer, brief though those interviews are. He's also very very good at finding superlatives for the singers and the songs he introduces. Sometimes he spends longer praising the singer than he does asking them the next question and where sopranos are concerned, this is no bad thing. And Natalie emerged as what I already knew she was: an intelligent singer with a sense of humour and a Voice With A Capital V. I would very much like to see her Amina and to own her Lucie de Lammermoor. And I need the DVD of Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet: Ophelia's mad scene, which appears on both of Natalie's French Arias CDs is out-of-this-world gorgeous. Never heard such a spooky 'La la la la la la la la' before.
Other news: as hoped, I officially like Beverly Sills. The Very Best of Beverly Sills is a very cleverly chosen collection of arias and shows her off brilliantly. Most of it consists of the hits from various complete opera recordings; my favourite without question are the bits of La traviata, which are incredible. Her Rossini is likewise excellent, and makes me even more convinced that in the right hands, quibbles about Rossini being boring all but evaporate: she's about the cutest Rosina I've ever heard. And 'Dis-moi que je suis belle' from Thaïs, well... that poor priest.
The Essential Jessye Norman which I finally listened to tonight is another happy addition to the collection. Gorgeous in every track, be it Wagner, Bernstein, Strauss or Mozart. The Habanera from Carmen was naturally perfect; 'When I am laid in earth' from Dido and Aeneas and Strauss 'Wiegenlied' were other highlights for me.
And right now, I'm listening to the opera that started it all: Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. Yes, yes, Jacopo Peri, Dafne, I know but this is the first proper opera, and the first to survive, and who knows: without this one the art might have died aborning and then where would we all be? I started wanting this when I fell for Natalie but it took me until last week to buy it. By which time I was buying it as much on account of Emmanuelle Haïm as Natalie. A good thing, seeing as Natalie (as, appropriately enough, La Musica) sings for all of about 3 and 1/2 minutes. Never mind. There's a clutch of other singers, all sounding very nice so far; there's some magnificent music; and as I said, there's the fabulous Emmanuelle Haïm and her Concert d'Astrée, a downright edible period ensemble. And at this very moment, drums! Fabulous!