London, on the other hand, is somewhere she has never quite cracked: she sang only two roles at Covent Garden (one of which, Marie in Donizetti’s comedy La Fille du Régiment won her an Olivier Award), turning down a lot of its other offers because she would accept only new productions and the longer rehearsal periods they entail, and she seems to have blotted her copybook at the Wigmore Hall too. “I sang there once. It was very nice, with a good acoustic, but they never ask me back. I complained about the lighting and I don’t think they liked that. “
Perhaps the English find her habit of making her feelings plain a bit disconcerting. “I did some master classes with Laurent at Aldeburgh last summer. I told them not to be frightened of themselves, to explore their imaginations. But I also said that personality is something you can’t teach. You either have it or you don’t.” She should know.
Natalie Dessay sings at the Barbican Hall on Friday ; her new CD Fiançailles pour rire: Mélodies Françaises is released on Erato
Her recital album, Vocalises , won a Diapason d'Or award and a Classique d'Or RTL in 1998. Despite the need for vocal cord surgery, which put her career on hold from 2002 until 2005, EMI's recording of Lakmé with Michel Plasson conducting and Dessay in the title role won the award for French Recording of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique Classique. Other releases include Offenbach 's Orphée and a Mozart aria disc on Virgin. She has recorded both the original French and Italian versions of Lucia di Lammermoor. Her list of awards also includes the Opera News Award and the Laurence Olivier Award (both 2008), and her designation as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (2011).