Danielle De Niese Subs for Natalie Dessay in Met's Giulio Cesare

Tuesday, April 09, 2013 - 04:00 PM

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:

Below is De Niesse's performance in 2005 Glyndebourne Festival production:


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Comments [12]

Did Ms. Dessay sing the Saturday broadcast?

Apr. 28 2013 01:32 AM
Cincinnatilady from New York

I saw Sills and Treigle perform GC as an oratorio in Cincinnati as a teen. I have also heard Sills sing this aria live in concert twice. The quality and class of those singers is missing here.
This is a Broadway singer, sliding around notes & trills and making the music sound "pop". But Baroque opera has always been open to whatever the singer has to work with.

Apr. 17 2013 01:01 PM
Susan from Brighton, Australia

Danielle De Niese was fabulous as Cleopatra on Tuesday night. Brava!

Apr. 14 2013 02:51 AM
CoolObserver from Manhattan New York

I can only report what I saw, what I heard and what I was told. Last night we attended the Met’s Giulio Cesare. Moments before the curtain rose, Peter Gelb came out to say Natalie Dessay was indisposed to a great audience groan, but this was reprieved by his “good news” that Danielle De Niese, who originated the role and happened to be in town, would cover for the evening.
On either side of the stage were two 8 to 10 foot speakers. During the first act in our usual front orchestra left seating area one could distinctly hear music coming from the speakers. We sit in this area all the time, so I know when sound is different. At the first intermission I went down the aisle to the orchestra pit and spoke with three musicians. I said “Is the music being amplified?” They looked shocked and immediately asked if “if sounded too loud… could I hear the amplification?” Yes, I said I could. But then I asked, “Why was it being amplified?” “Because it is a big house and the orchestra for this is small,” I was told. “The stage is much deeper than Glyndebourne, and it is harder to hear the singers from the far back.” They went on “This can be done very subtly these days, and the singers wear tiny microphones. But you shouldn’t be able to tell.” I said I had heard Giulio Cesare two or three times in the past at the Met and never heard amplification or thought it was needed.
When I told several audience members about this encounter --two of them went to the orchestra pit the next intermission themselves to question this. The story changed. They were told, “Yes, there is amplification, but it is only for the singers backstage.” However, the speakers I was hearing were out front of the proscenium and pointed into the hall at the audience.

Apr. 13 2013 12:27 PM

I happened to be sitting next to someone who announced that she was a trustee and is listed as Managing Director, which I think is a title bestowed on extra big contributors (like the former Agnes Varis). Anyway, when I asked her why amplification was being used she said she didn’t know, and her husband/companion suggested it might have something to do with the HD. Then the Managing Director tartly said, if it bothered me or I didn’t like it I should “change my seat, that is easy to do!”
I found the second act to be less obviously amplified, but by the third act others around me heard it distinctly. I wondered if this was done opening night as you did not mention it, and if it portends a new Met policy under Mr. Gelb.
As for the Giulio Cesare production, the skeleton set of telescoping proscenium arches with multi-swaged draperies served fine and was very reminiscent, if less artistically successful, than last summer’s brilliant Armide at Glimmerglass (which also had much finer dancing!). What ultimately spoiled the Met evening for me was the endless camp. A little camp goes a long way, especially when so much was emphasizing and doting on the “fey”ness and “cute” side of things. Those repetitive jokes get stale very quickly.
Subtlety is not Met style these days; we are given broad Broadway overstatement as if the audience would not get the point otherwise. One could get over flapper dresses many inches too short, but in the duration of an Egyptian campaign we go from 18th and 19th century sailing ships to 20th century battleships and air balloons, as well as the inexplicable switch of Giulio and Cleo to stilted 18th century dress for the finale! Such blatant inconsistencies shatter the authenticity of a vision (as in wink, wink, isn’t this cute), and makes one feel either the designer and director are ignorant or careless in throwing anything at you that might get a hee-haw. It is not believing in your material or even your chosen approach enough to treat it at least halfway seriously and consistently. Another “never again” production despite excellent, excellent signing on the whole (once David had warmed up).

Apr. 13 2013 12:22 PM
Marion from New York

Have tickets for Friday night. Last year, we were fortunate to see La Traviata on a night when Dessay sang. I don't know if our luck will hold, but if she's out, I hope they have someone good like DeNiese. The Met really has to have a better system in place for last minute replacements, and after what happened last year with Dessay, it's essential.

Apr. 11 2013 10:04 AM
Marta from Brooklyn from Brooklyn, NY

I was there last night (4/9), and while I had moments of skepticism as I watched De Niece execute the choreography perfectly -- "really, she didn't know until this morning?" -- I thought she was fabulous. And the crowd did too, you could feel the love. If she does continue and others have the opportunity to see/hear her, they are in for a treat.

Apr. 10 2013 04:33 PM
leslie from Belfast, Maine

I usually see the performance , just before the HD broadcast. The cameras are working and practicing.

It has happened a few times that the stars, one of them, is replaced by the cover, or someone like last night.

Then the "star" is ready for the HD broadcast.

Oft times I'm quite happy with the replacement.

I have never - ever - seen Dessay live--once. Would like to. But when she is comfortably healthy.

Apr. 10 2013 01:49 PM
Doris from Manhattan

Agree with SmarterThanThis. Even though DDN had sung this production at Glyndebourne, she was too movement-and-note-perfect to have jumped in at the last minute. There is a certain amount of choreography, in which she was spot-on, and the costumes fitted her absolutely perfectly. Having said all this, she was utterly magnificent in all of the above. A true theater animal with a glamour that is always welcome on the opera stage. Dessay could not have been any better, and probably wasn't. BTW, the entire cast was terrific.

The two best Broadway shows in town (and they actually ARE on Broadway) are the Met's Rigoletto and Giulio Cesare!

Apr. 10 2013 01:16 PM
20 Year Met Subscriber from Manhattan

We were there last evening, as we are big Desay fans. Gelb can at least tell the truth. De Niese was in waiting - her costumes must be twice the size and she just "happened" to be in NJ? Please stop using Desay to sell tickets. I'm sure De Niese will complete the run. At least be honest about it.

Apr. 10 2013 12:43 PM
Frank from UWS

Will she be wearing that top in the performance? If so, I'm there!

Apr. 10 2013 09:36 AM

Do we REALLY think DeNiese had no rehearsal? Come ON. She's been sitting in New Jersey for not just a few days on the DL and paid by Gelb for this very reason. Though heaven forbid that they put the actual cover on, whoever that is.

Apr. 09 2013 10:30 PM

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