When the soprano Natalie Dessay dropped out before Tuesday night’s performance of Giulio Cesare at the Metropolitan Opera, the company didn’t have to look far for a star replacement: the soprano Danielle de Niese was visiting her parents in New Jersey when general manager Peter Gelb called her Tuesday morning and asked her to sing the role.
De Niese originated the role in the premiere of David McVicar’s production, which took place at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2005. Considered by many music critics to be her career-making performance (the Times of London called it “the most spectacular casting success” in festival's recent history), she went on to sing it at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2007.
Dessay, who is ill, according to the Met, received largely favorable reviews for her opening-night performances last week. On Operavore, David Patrick Stearns wrote that Dessay “sang with the kind of rich tone, firm legato line and vibrato control that I haven’t heard from her in years.”
New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini noted that Dessay had “some vocal setbacks in recent years,” including “a shaky run last season as Violetta” in the Met’s Traviata. But he added, "she is mostly in good voice, tossing off coloratura passagework, singing with sparkle in the perky arias and with melting richness in the sad ones."
Shortly before Tuesday night’s performance De Niesse admitted on Twitter to some nervousness:
Fear. Jumping head first into a running show without rehearsing w/ cast or orch. #iMustBeCrrrrrazy!May the gods be w me. & the force too— Danielle de Niese (@Danielledeniese) April 9, 2013
Below is De Niesse's performance in 2005 Glyndebourne Festival production: