Natalie Dessay (born Nathalie Dessaix, 19 April 1965, in Lyon) is a French coloratura soprano. She dropped the “h” in her first name in honor of Natalie Wood when she was in grade school and subsequently simplified the spelling of her surname outside France. Famous in her earlier career for a very high upper extension, limpid intonation and superb coloratura, Dessay became more recognized in recent years for her dramatic and comedic flair as a singing actress.
In her youth, Dessay had intended to be a ballet dancer, and then an actress. She discovered her talent for singing whilst taking acting classes, and shifted her artistic focus to music. Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire national de région de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister in Toulouse. At the competition Les Voix Nouvelles, run by France Télécom, she was awarded First Prize (Premier Prix de Concours) followed by a year’s study at Paris Opera’s Ecole d’Art Lyrique, where she sang “Elisa” in Mozart’s Il re pastore. Also, she entered the International Mozart Competition at the Vienna State Opera, winning First Prize.
She was quickly approached by a number of theatres, and subsequently sang “Blondchen”, “Madame Herz” (in Der Schauspieldirektor), “Zerbinetta” and “Zaïde” at the Opéra National de Lyon and the Opéra Bastille, as well as “Adele” in Die Fledermaus in Geneva.