Daniela Dessì showed up earlier this week for a Teatro alla Scala recital, and by reading the program -- Fauré, Debussy, Puccini's arie giovanili and romanze da salotto (Puccini material that, to Opera Chic's ears, is not so stellar -- in that genre Tosti could do better than poor Giacomo, whose great genius lay elsewhere) -- you would not think that this was a night for the best Puccini soprano out there -- the Tosca of our time (the first encore since 1956 -- after Tebaldi -- at Teatro Comunale di Firenze), a splendid Butterfly, a saucy Minnie (and her peerless Adriana makes her a Cilea singer of Olivero stature -- and Opera Chic does not take la signora Magda's name in vain).
A strange program, but then, Dessì began her career as a Rossini and Mozart soprano (her Scala debut, in 1989, was as Susanna) -- her repertoire got increasingly heavier in time. So Opera Chic had high hopes for the evening -- an evening that ended, as we'll see, triumphantly, because Dessì left the audience reeling and on their feet in standing ovation.
The recital started as coolly as her gown, la Dessì taking the stage in a sea foam green, frothy, floor-length dress with a tight bodice that, frankly, contained with extreme difficulty la Dessì's virtually unstoppable bewbs. The soprano was beguiling as ever, working her matching silk wrap and nodding every so often to pianist Marco Boemi (who OC wasn't particularly impressed with...inelegant pedal work and codas held way too long that sometimes distracted from la Dessì's inflections and tones). She started out coyly, perfect control and intonation as always, and it wasn't until the third Fauré piece, "Rêve d'amour", that Dessì started to really shine, continuing at a steady pace towards the climax of the first half. By the time she arrived at the Claude Debussy pieces, the audience was enthusiastically clamoring between sets, while unstoppable clapping clashed with simultaneous shushing. The Debussy works all stood out equally, from a queit, adequately nocturnal with "Nuit d'étoiles" to the final recitativo and aria from "Lia" (from "L’enfant prodigue") -- where for the first time in the recital she let it rip, unleashed that voice, and her pourquoi tu m’as quitté echoed as a heartbreaking plea for love worthy of, well, her Butterfly.
After intermission, Dessì turned up the heat, and waltzed onto the stage in a red-hawt, floor-length ball gown with a sweetheart bodice, looking stellar, the gigantosaurus bewbage that makes us love her even more held miracolously under control.
As much as the French repertoire was lovely, an interesting interpretation of a most elegant repertoire, the second half boasted seven Puccini works, more suited to la Dessì's evolving fach. Now it was time to ~Release the Kracken~! Dessì sailed through Mentìa l'avviso, Sole e amore, Sogno d’or, Terra e mare, Storiella d'amore, Morire? and Canto d'anime cranking up the heat exponentially, walking us through young Puccini's experiment, his toying with phrases that would emerge later in his most famous operas -- again, not material that seriously interfered with Opera Chic's panties the way Puccini operas do -- the vastly inferior Tosti did that kind of material better -- but Dessì's musicality and intelligence made it a worthwile musical journey.
It was all good, a nice night untile she treated the clamoring audience to five encores. And here, after a touching Mozart hommage to the Daniela of yesteryear, Dessì's unleashed her vocal Ferrari on Puccini and Cilea opera arias, throwing red meat in la Scala's hungry crawr the way few sopranos nowadays can do. Towards the last two encore, the audience couldn't even contain themselves, and just screamed random compliments and requests at the humble artist.
Let's see. First, she mentioned how, twenty years ago, she debuted at la Scala as Susanna, and she wanted to give us "Porgi amor" from Le Nozze, in memory of that very special night; Dessì's voice has grown since then, got larger, darker, stronger, and still she wore Mozart's melody like a glove, giving us a tender, melancholy, stately distinction, her final "or at least let me die" full of heartbreak and hard-earned wisdom. In Corriere della Sera's wise words, her "Porgi amor" was "immaculate" (the Milanese paper of record headlined the review with "Daniela Dessì Conquers La Scala", clocking in the ovations at 15 minutes, probably a record -- or close -- for voice recital).
She followed with Cilèa's "Poveri fiori" from Adriana Lecouvreur, wonderfully raising the stakes in one of her strongest roles; Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi, at breakneck speed and without the usual silly schmaltz -- and a virtuoso, delicate-as-a-cobweb hushed finale that should be have been recorded and studied from now on by young sopranos willing to tackle Lauretta; a ballsy "Tu che di gel sei cinta" from Turandot, all withheld aggression flaunting some insane pianissimi; and then, in front of a sweaty, throbbing audience almost entirely on their feet, Dessì sang "Vissi d'arte". Her trademark, soulful, emotionally hammering "Vissi d'arte". We didn't record it then and there, but this is how she does it:
That's Dessì alright. How do you deny her a triumph.