Christian Merlin, Rentrée réussie à l'Opéra Bastille (Le Figaro, September 11)
Michel Parouty, Folie triomphante (Les Echos, September 14)
Caroline Alexander, Le triomphe de Natalie Dessay, la révélation de Matthew Polenzani (Webthea, September 18)
The hall of the Opéra Bastille was full on Saturday night, September 9, to welcome the return of the soprano Natalie Dessay on the main Parisian stage in the hallucinatory Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti, which opened the 2006-2007 season. It was once in this role, performed in its French version in January 2002 at the Opéra de Lyon with Roberto Alagna, that the singer withdrew, replaced hastily by Patricia Ciofi. Two operations on her vocal cords in less than two years -- removal of a pseudo-cyst on the left side in July and then a polyp in November 2004, this time on the right side -- between which the singer had returned to the stage, proving that she had lost nothing of her talent and power.Christian Merlin said that Dessay moved from one gymnastics apparatus to the next with no discernible impact on her sound. That woman is just incredible.
Still one could not but fear for the future, despite her triumphant new role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. At the Opéra Bastille, we had not seen her since 2003 and the petulant Straussian Zerbinetta directed by Laurent Pelly, a revival of which she had canceled in 2004. Since then, a duo recital with Rolando Villazón in April quieted the last fears and indicated the coloratura's new orientation toward a denser and more tragic repertoire, revealing the magnificent Verdian she promised to be in a high-flying Traviata (the Act I scena).
But to come back to Lucia, there is no haunted castle or Scottish fog à la Walter Scott in the staging by the Romanian Andrei Serban, created in 1995, which has here its second revival after one in 1998. [...] The poor girl, already treated poorly in the opera, meets her lover for the last time in a gymnastics room, speaking of love while holding on to a knotted rope before swearing fidelity while on a pommel horse? One must truly be named Natalie Dessay to pass without harm through such ineptness and remain moving as the Demoiselle on a balance beam ("Quando rapito in estasi").