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Natalie Dessay

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Nathalie Dessaix (born 19 April 1965, Lyon) is a French soprano. She dropped the “h” in her first name in honor of Natalie Wood when she was in grade school and Anglicised her surname to “Dessay” outside France.

Initially an actress, Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire National de region de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister in Toulouse. At the competition Les Voix Nouvelles, run by France Telecom, she was awarded First Prize (Premier Prix de Concours) followed by a year’s study at Paris Opera’s Ecole d’Art Lyrique, where she sang “Elisa” in Mozart’s Il re pastore. Also, she entered the International Mozart Competition at the Vienna Staatsoper, winning First Prize.

She was quickly approached by a number of theatres, and subsequently sang “Blondchen”, “Madame Herz” (in Der Schauspieldirektor), “Zerbinetta” and “Zaide” at the Opera National de Lyon and the Opera Bastille, as well as “Adele” in Die Fledermaus in Geneva.

In April and May 1992 at the Opera Bastille, she sang the short but brilliant role of “Olympia” in The Tales of Hoffmann with Jose van Dam. The Roman Polanski production was not well received, but it began the road to stardom for Dessay. Although she was soon featured in another production of Hoffmann, it would be over ten years before her triumphant return to Paris Opera in that very role.

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