Performance Sunday, May 15, 2011 | 3 PM

The MET Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Whether at the Metropolitan Opera or here at Carnegie Hall, being on stage is truly magical for Natalie Dessay; as she says, it’s “where everything is possible.” With her trademark imaginative verve, Dessay joins The MET Orchestra for a wide-ranging program that includes Ravel’s spicy habanera rhythms and, as a finale, two arias from operas by Poulenc and Massenet.

The MET Orchestra's Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi has graciously agreed to replace James Levine for this performance. Maestro Levine is forced to cancel this appearance following his doctors’ advice to rest and recuperate from his ongoing back condition.

For further information, ticket holders may contact CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800.


  • Natalie Dessay, Soprano
  • The MET Orchestra
    Fabio Luisi, Principal Guest Conductor


  • BERG Lulu Suite
  • RACHMANINOFF Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14
  • GLIÈRE Andante from Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra
  • RAVEL Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera
  • DELIBES "Tu m'as donné le plus doux rêve" from Lakmé
  • MASSENET "Je marche sur tous les chemins . . . Obéissons quand leur voix appelle" from Manon
  • R. STRAUSS Don Juan

  • Encore:
  • DONIZETTI "Il faut partir" from La fille du régiment


  • Natalie Dessay

    An admired interpreter of bel canto and lyric heroines, Natalie Dessay was born in Lyon, France, and grew up in Bordeaux. She studied acting and singing at the Bordeaux Conservatoire and in 1989 entered France's first Concours des Voix nouvelles, where she won second prize. This led to further studies at the Opéra de Paris and to her first major engagements as a soloist.

    In 1992, Ms. Dessay sang her first Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffmann at Paris's Opéra Bastille in a staging by Roman Polanski. The next year, she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera as Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. In 1993, she sang Olympia in the opening production for the rebuilt Opéra de Lyon, and by 2001 had performed the role in eight different stagings, including her debut appearance at La Scala. Also during the 1990s, Ms. Dessay performed the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte at the Aix-en-Provence Festival; Ophélie in Hamlet in Geneva, a role she later sang at Covent Garden and at Barcelona's Liceu in 2003; Aminta in Die schweigsame Frau in Vienna; the Fiakermilli in Arabella for her 1994 debut at the Metropolitan Opera (where she has since returned as Amina in La sonnambula, Marie in La fille du régiment, Olympia, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Juliette in Roméo et Juliette); the title role of Lakmé at Paris's Opéra Comique; Eurydice in Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers in Lyon; and Morgana in Handel's Alcina and the title role in Stravinsky's Le rossignol in Paris.

    Ms. Dessay has sung the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in several stagings, including productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris's Opéra Bastille, San Francisco Opera, and in the premiere of a new production for the opening of the Metropolitan Opera's 2007-2008 season. She sang Marie for the 2007 debut of Laurent Pelly's production of La fille du régiment at Covent Garden, and later in Vienna and at the Met.

    This season, Ms. Dessay returned to the Met as Lucia (a performance that was transmitted Live in HD to movie theaters worldwide last month), and sings Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare with the Opéra Paris, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande with the Orchestre de Paris, and Violetta in La traviata at the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

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  • The MET Orchestra

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is regarded as one of the world's finest orchestras. From the time of the company's inception in 1883, the ensemble has worked with leading conductors in both opera and concert performances and has developed into an orchestra of enormous technical polish and style.

    The MET Orchestra (as the ensemble is referred to when appearing in concert outside the opera house) maintains a demanding schedule of performances and rehearsals during its 32-week New York season, when the company performs seven times a week in repertory that normally encompasses approximately 27 operas.

    Arturo Toscanini conducted almost 500 performances at the Met, and Gustav Mahler, during the few years he was in New York, conducted 54 Met performances. More recently, many of the world's great conductors have led the orchestra: Walter, Beecham, Reiner, Mitropoulos, Kempe, Szell, Böhm, Solti, Maazel, Bernstein, Mehta, Abbado, Karajan, Dohnányi, Haitink, Tennstedt, Ozawa, Gergiev, Barenboim, and Muti. Carlos Kleiber's only US opera performances were with the MET Orchestra.

    In addition to its opera schedule, the orchestra has a distinguished history of concert performances. Toscanini made his American debut as a symphonic conductor with the MET Orchestra in 1913, and the impressive list of instrumental soloists who appeared with the orchestra includes Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Casals, Josef Hofmann, Ferruccio Busoni, Jascha Heifetz, Moritz Rosenthal, and Fritz Kreisler. Since the orchestra resumed symphonic concerts in 1991, instrumental soloists have included Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Alfred Brendel, and Evgeny Kissin, and the group has performed five world premieres: Babbitt's Piano Concerto No. 2 (1998), Bolcom's Symphony No. 7 (2002), Shen's Legend (2002), and Wuorinen's Theologoumenon (2007) and Time Regained (2009).

    The orchestra's high standing led to its first commercial recordings in nearly 20 years: Wagner's complete Ring cycle, conducted by James Levine. Recorded by Deutsche Grammophon over a period of three years, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Götterdämmerung were winners of an unprecedented three consecutive Grammy Awards in 1989, 1990, and 1991 for Best Opera Recording. Other recordings under Maestro Levine include L'elisir d'amore, Idomeneo, Le nozze di Figaro, Der fliegende Holländer, Parsifal, Erwartung, Manon Lescaut, and seven Verdi operas. Maestro Levine has also led the orchestra for recordings of Wagner overtures, Verdi ballet music, an all-Berg disc with Renée Fleming, and aria albums with Bryn Terfel, Kathleen Battle, and Ms. Fleming. The orchestra's first symphonic recordings are pairings of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition with Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps; Beethoven's "Eroica" with Schubert's "Unfinished" symphonies; and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote and Tod und Verklärung.

    In spring 1991 the orchestra, under the leadership of Maestro Levine, began concert touring. They have since traveled across the US and to Europe (including their debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2002), as well as annually to Carnegie Hall. This May, the orchestra returns to Japan for its sixth tour in 23 years.

    Fabio Luisi

    Fabio Luisi made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2005 with Don Carlo, and has subsequently led the company in performances of Die Ägyptische Helena, SimonBoccanegra, Turandot, Le nozze di Figaro, Tosca, Lulu, Elektra, Hansel and Gretel, Rigoletto, Das Rheingold, and Ariadne auf Naxos. He also appears on tour with the company this June in Japan conducting La bohème, Don Carlo, and the MET Orchestra in a special concert in Tokyo's Suntory Hall. Appointed the company's Principal Guest Conductor in fall 2010, he returns next season to lead performances of La traviata and a new production of Manon.

    Mr. Luisi was appointed Chief Conductor of the Vienna Symphony in 2005, and is also Music Director of the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. He was general music director of the Dresden Staatskapelle and Sächsische Staatsoper from 2007 to 2010, artistic director of the MDR in Leipzig from 1999 to 2007, music director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1997 to2002, chief conductor of Vienna's Tonkünstlerorchester from 1995 to 2000, and artistic director of the Graz Symphony from 1990 to 1996. He begins his position as Music Director of the Zurich Opera beginning with the 2012-2013 season.

    Maestro Luisi maintains an active schedule of guest engagements with international orchestras and opera companies. He has appeared with, among others, the Orchestre de Paris, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo's NHK Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestra di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Additionally, he is a frequent guest at the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin (Unter den Linden). He made his debut at the Salzburg Festival with Richard Strauss's Die Liebe der Danae in 2002, and returned the following season for Strauss's DieÄgyptische Helena.

    Highlights of the 2010-2011 season include debuts with Barcelona's Liceu Opera, leading Falstaff; The Philadelphia Orchestra; Aida at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; and Cagliari's Teatro Lirico, as well as concerts with the Vienna Symphony in Vienna and on tour to Salzburg and Graz.

    Last season, in addition to concerts in Dresden and tours with the Staatskapelle, Mr. Luisi toured extensively with the Vienna Symphony in Europe and in Japan. In summer 2010, he began his tenure as Artistic Director of the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo. He also conducted a new production of Tosca at Munich's Bavarian State Opera, and debuted with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Gürzenich Orchestra of Cologne, and London's Philharmonia Orchestra.

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Ravel's Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera
Berlin Symphony Orchestra; Michael Schonwandt, Conductor; Natalie Dessay, Soprano 
EMI Classics 

At a Glance

This afternoon’s program ranges from spicy habanera rhythms to arias from operas by Poulenc and Massenet. Berg’s second and final opera, Lulu—which chronicles the exploits of its lascivious, deranged, yet irresistible title character, the ultimate femme fatale—lost any hope of being produced after the Nazis came to power in 1933 and declared Berg’s previous opera, Wozzeck, “degenerate art.” In 1934, with the third and final act’s orchestration still incomplete, Berg refocused his energies toward arranging a concert suite in hopes of having at least some music from the opera performed.

The basic concept of vocalise—a composition for voice without text—dates back to vocal exercises and solfège teaching tools in the 18th century, some ricercars of the 16th and 17th centuries, and even as far back as medieval Gregorian chant. We hear three 20th-century examples of vocalise that display the myriad expressive possibilities of vocal music even when stripped of language.

Program Notes
This performance is part of The MET Orchestra.