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It's a measure of Natalie Dessay's entirely appropriate priorities -- of musical and dramatic content over her vanity -- that she looks so ghastly on the cover of her album of scenes and arias from Italian operas. She's dressed as the mad Lucia -- who certainly shouldn't be looking her best, but "as if she has risen from the grave" -- and the image is emblematic of her commitment to dramatic verisimilitude in the role. The same self-effacing approach is evident in all her portrayals, in which she doesn't call attention to herself with extreme or idiosyncratic performances, but seems to lose herself in the characters. Dessay's performances aren't flashy, and the primary focus is on the musical and dramatic demands of the roles. Dessay frequently includes excerpts from scenes, which places the arias nicely in their dramatic context. Dessay's voice is light, the delicacy and youthfulness of her voice are often ideally suited to the characters' tenuous emotional conditions, particularly Lucia, Elvira, and Giulietta. She has plenty of substance to easily soar over the orchestra, though, and her coloratura is absolutely secure. The overall impression is that she has nothing to prove -- she's simply using her superb instrument to deliver what the composer asked for, with assurance, intelligence, and passion. Evelino Pidò leads the Concerto Köln and Europäischer Kammerchor in performances that match Dessay's intensity. The album contains a 20-minute DVD of Dessay's gripping mad scene from a 2007 performance at the Met
La Traviata, opera
E strano!... Ah, fors'è lui...
Follie! Follie... Sempre libera

I Puritani, opera
O rendetemi la speme
Qui la voce sua soave
Vien diletto

Maria Stuarda, opera
Allenta il piè, Regina
Oh nube che lieve
Nella pace del mesto riposo
Gualtier Maldé... Caro nome

I Capuleti e i Montecchi, opera
Eccomi in lieta vesta
Oh! quante volte

Lucia di Lammermoor, opera
Eccola... Il dolce suono
Ardon gli incensi
S'avanza Enrico
Spargi d'amaro pianto
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  • Seller location: Nelson, Nelson Bays, NZ

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