Natalie Dessay – Pictures of America (2016)

Natalie Dessay - Pictures of America (2016)
Artist: Natalie Dessay
Album: Pictures of America
Genre: Classical Crossover, Vocal Jazz
Origin: France
Released: 2016
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps

On a Clear Day (From “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”)
I Feel Pretty (From “West Side Story”)
I’m a Fool to Want You
Send in the Clowns (From “A Little Night Music”)
Detour Ahead
Something’s Coming (From “West Side Story”)
Autour de minuit
I Keep Going Back to Joe’s & My Solitude
A Place That You Want to Call Home
Two Lonely People
There’s No Business Like Show Business (From “Annie Get Your Gun”)
Ground Swell
Girl at Sewing Machine
Compartment C, Car 293
South Carolina Morning
House by the Railroad
People in the Sun
Roofs of Washington Square
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11


The list of really successful albums of Broadway song by operatic singers is a short one, and there are still fewer by those whose native language is not English. Credit French soprano Natalie Dessay, now retired from opera performances, for appreciating the challenges involved. She neither applies an operatic voice to these songs nor tries to compete with popular singers on their own terms. Instead, like Renée Fleming, she creates a new voice, lower in register, rather quiet, and reflective of the dramatic approach of opera. Dessay takes an additional step: she commissions distinctive orchestral arrangements and works them out in detail with the Paris Mozart Orchestra under Claire Gibault. The results are indubitably a mixed bag, but the whole thing comes off quite a bit better than you might think, and it will stick in your head rather than evaporating like so many similar products. I Feel Pretty is a breathy mess, but Dessay in general does well to choose songs that although not terribly famous, fit her ideas here. Autour de minuit is the only French-language track; it’s a French setting of Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight. You might sample the opening On a Clear Day (from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever), which sets out with clarity and verve what Dessay is trying to accomplish. Dessay apparently conceived this project herself after viewing paintings by Edward Hopper, and it does not have the feel of one of Sony’s profit-inspired crossover outings. Quirky indeed but recommended.
Review by James Manheim