Bizet’s “Adieux de l’Hôtesse Arabe” felt drab, without a range of vocal colors, and the “Jewel Song,” from Gounod’s “Faust,” radiated clenched-teeth determination rather than sparkle. Dessay’s voice remains almost eerily preserved — clean, pointed, penetrating.Called upon for soft, hovering high notes, the decades melted away.In 1992 she sang her first Olympia in Offenbach’s Contes d’Hoffmann at Paris’s Opéra Bastille in a staging by Roman Polanski.The next year she was invited to the Vienna Staatsoper to sing Blondchen (Die Entführung aus dem Serail).So this was “Gretchen am Spinnrade” as despairing cry, the “Lied der Mignon” as haunted litany.In “Die Junge Nonne,” her whitened tone in the line “Finster die nacht wie das grab” (“The night is as dark as the grave”) conjured a whole world of fear.Dessay attempted a silky Streisand-style float in standards like “On a Clear Day” and “Send in the Clowns.”But she hasn’t abandoned classical music: A new album of Schubert songs features intriguingly if unremittingly stark interpretations.She made a better impression in some of those songs at Carnegie, with full-bodied collaboration from the pianist Philippe Cassard. Dessay likes to present — that of a victim giving testimony — rounds into a complete, often riveting performance a voice that, when recorded, can come off chilly and charmless.
“It’s not that I’m leaving opera,” she told the newspaper Le Figaro in 2013, during her final run as Massenet’s Manon.Conductors for these appearances included Pierre Boulez, James Levine, James Conlon, William Christie and Marc Minkowski.She also worked with Laurent Pelly, notably in Orphée aux Enfers (1997), for the first time in the role of Marie from La Figlia del Reggimento by Donizetti, as well as in Pelléas and Mélisande that was also recorded on DVD (2009).“It’s that opera is leaving me.”When opera leaves you, what’s left? Dessay, it has been tours with the French pop and film composer Michel Legrand and some straight theater. In 2014, she was Madame Emery in a semi-staged version of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and has played the obsessive Fosca in Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion.” (Ms.Fleming will follow that lead, appearing next season in a Broadway production of “Carousel.”) In “Pictures of America,” a recording released last year, Ms.In 1993 she was Olympia in the opening production for the rebuilt Opéra de Lyon and by 2001 she had performed the role in eight different stagings, including her debut appearance at La Scala in Milan.The 1990s also brought the Queen of the Night at Aix-en-Provence, Ophélie (Hamlet) in Geneva, Aminta (Die schweigsame Frau) in Vienna, Fiakermilli (Arabella) for her debut at the New York Met – followed by Olympia and Zerbinetta, Lakmé at the Opéra Comique, Eurydice in Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers in Lyon, and, in Paris, Morgana in Handel’s Alcina and the title role in Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol.But the touch of nasality, of wiry acid, that was always around the edges of her instrument has spread: She is a passionate artist who casts a memorable spell, but she is not always pure pleasure to listen to.While I could do without some of her trying-too-hard touches — the wide-eyed peering, the self-consciously sensual sinuous arm motions — she manages to pull off some potentially campy ideas. Cassard could play a couple of Debussy solos, and I was ready to roll my eyes as she floated back on like a sleepwalker as he finished the final bars of “Ondine” and began, without pause, the opening of Debussy’s song “Regret.” But her commitment made the moment persuasive.The Examiner reports on the French soprano's plans to retire. She sounds in the article a bit put off by what has been an auspicious career.