Saturday, March 31, 2012

63. Suns Set

Natalie Dessay
Le 50e Gala de l'Union des Artistes au cirque Alexis Grüss
le 21 novembre 2011
Photo: Yann Orhan

One day:
one fine day –
“Un bel dì”
your ankles start to get sore
after just a few hours
in rehearsal;

One day,
the high notes that were once
so easy
stick, become harder to attack
and you must slither, slide
around them
just to get up

One day:
you need one extra layer of make-up
just to hide the
just to erase the age
that is writ too clearly now;
in telecasts your skin appears
3 shades too light;
yes, tenors half your age
are your lovers once
again –

One day –
the long silences in the hotel
don’t seem so luxurious anymore;
you flip the scores
restlessly, the old ones
more so;
knowing you can’t get away with what
you used to,
that it is another that
vanishes from your singable repertoire once
again, the tessitura too high or
too much colouratura,
or just too damn

One day,
you sit in a busy American airport
realizing your two babies
are now teenagers
living in 2 distant countries
and that you haven’t
talked to either in at
least three

One day

you glance out at
the audience, but it is
night –
and no one realizes
how painful these stacatti
are becoming and how tired you
are after just the
third night of
mad scenes –

and wonder, as you sing the
Act I aria
if the pensive upward look you
do is
translating through the HD live transmission
the incredible regret you feel
on Thursday,
or your wandering mind on Saturday,
which has never before drifted
to dinner or how your
husband is doing back overseas,

your concentration, your enthusiasm is
scandalously stupid Eurotrash
productions, late
visionless directors hail a
frightening, new Era;
your face appears on buses;
audiences take high notes,
colouratura, phrases-in-one-breath
for granted; they do not even
hold it as a contest
anymore –

You are so tired
of trying when there is so much
resistance, so much upheaval.
The flurry of New York city is
frightening, emphasizing your
enhanced by the increasing
bareness of middle age.

It has been a long time since you
have last been at a
grocery store
you could be buying
plastic-wrapped Atlantic salmon
on a
Friday night like any
petite, dark-haired

One day –
as you rise creaking from bed
on a rare silent weekend morning
the instinctive urge to
vocalise is suddenly stilled;
your mouth forms the customary
“oohs” and “aahs” but
nothing emerges.
It is almost as if
the memory of previous conquests,
previous triumphs is best
left to the past, to
to the hallowed seats at the silent
La Scala

There is no way we can compete again
with youth;
when we have sung our songs
and our weary vocal cords
lie unused and stuffed away
under the socks in the
bedroom dresser,
we glance wearily out the
window of our own
home at last,
preparing for anonymity,
bidding farewell
to the Diva
that was.

Natalie Dessay et Charles Castronovo
La Traviata de Giuseppe Verdi
Festival d'Aix en Provence, 9 juillet 2011
Photo: Pascal Victor / Artcom Art



    And the plastic wrapped salmon..was that in a video of hers from 1999 ish? where she had short brown hair and neima was a baby? I totally remember that.

    I just had all these visions of natalie in it in your are so talented! And I love the pics! I totally bet that's how she's are a genius!


    1. Thank you!  It takes a fellow Dessay fan to really understand the angle to this poem.  I based it also on a little of Callas, Renée Fleming, and my own mother...mainly asking the question, what happens when we get older and our bodies can't serve us as they once did?  How do we deal with the impending end of middle age?  It's sad knowing that opera singers (especially women) become so extremely vulnerable as their voices begin to betray them.  And audiences forget as quickly as they applaud...but the truly dedicated will never forget, ever.

  2. you're welcome :)

    Great questions...I totally agree...I know i'm still very young and am still an aspiring singer (I'm training to be an opera singer) but when i had nodules last year and I felt SO vulnerable..I watched Natalies La Voix videos on youtube of her surgery seeing her have moments of laughter and tears amidst that trial (even if its in French which i don't know haha) and I totally empathize what its like to hvae your voice betray you. And Audiences do forget..i agree...opera singers ARE human! They have illnesses, children, etc. and you're right, we will NEVER ever forget her. WE NEED TO MEET HER!!!!! :)

    1. You had nodules already! Oh no! But Sondra Radvanovsky did an interview and said that she began her career singing with inborn impediments on her vocal cords and had to get them removed, and everything became easier afterwards. So sometimes these things happen, and we don't realize them until we start singing. But as they all say, it's not a shame and not something we should be worried about! We can't control our bodies all the time, after all.

      Opera singers have such a difficult life...the voice is the instrument! And as they body ages, so does the voice - what are you supposed to then? But it is such a rewarding career...if I am born again, I would be an opera singer. But at the same time, it's a difficult life - though so is most other rewarding, demanding careers.

      I'm a classically trained pianist, and even then I chose to pursue science instead because the arts are a risk. Which is fun when you're established, but terrifying to deal with when you're young and just starting out. And not only do you need the good fortune of having a fantastic vocal need to act, you need to dance, you need to look good, you need to have to something to say...and above all, you need the LUCK to become a star. And the tenacity and stamina to pull an international career through till as long as you can. Good luck! And have a back-up plan. :)


One Art, to recognize, must be,
Another Art to Praise.

- Emily Dickinson