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In her youth, she had intended to be a ballet dancer and then an actress.Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse.The Roman Polanski production was not well received, but it began the road to stardom for Dessay.
She received wide acclaim in roles such as Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffmann, the title role in Lakmé, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte.
In her later career, she took on roles in the 19-century bel canto repertoire such as Amina in La sonnambula, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta in La traviata and performed baroque music by composers such as Handel and Bach.
After making her solo recording debut on EMI in 1995 with a set of Mozart concert arias, she released French Opera Arias in 1996, and the LP Vocalises in 1998.
Recordings of operas by composers such as Mozart, Donizetti, Monteverdi, and Bellini followed in the 2000s, as did solo albums including 2007's Italian Opera Arias and 2009's Bach: Cantatas.
The Lyon Opera Orchestra under Theodor Guschlbauer stays out of Dessay's way, which is exactly the right place for it.
There are sopranos with greater dramatic insight than Dessay, and plenty with more sheer power, but for the pleasure of hearing a trained voice enter territory where only a few can go, this disc remains a rare find.
Dessay not only hits the multiple examples of the E two octaves plus above middle C, she sounds good doing so, and she makes real music as the tune bounces around a few steps below that.
For sheer agility in the top register, it's hard to beat.
No texts are given, but when you hear Dessay hit the stratosphere, you won't care.
The booklet notes, in English, French, and German (the French and German notes are different from the English but identical to each other), are abbreviated from the earlier release; there is no biographical information, but the basic background on the music is helpful.