Sabine Devieilhe, the soprano Jaël Azzaretti and the stage director Clément Hervieu-Léger at rehearsals for Mitridate, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, February 2016.

High in the vocal
stratosphere

Mer de cimes arborées perdues dans les nuages, Shikoku.

Shikoku: a sea of tree-covered peaks

lost in the clouds.

Sabine Devieilhe, the soprano Jaël Azzaretti and the stage director Clément Hervieu-Léger at rehearsals for Mitridate, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, February 2016.

Sabine Devieilhe, the soprano Jaël Azzaretti and the stage director Clément Hervieu-Léger at rehearsals for Mitridate, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, February 2016.

Sabine Devieilhe, the soprano Jaël Azzaretti and the stage director Clément Hervieu-Léger at rehearsals for Mitridate, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, February 2016.

Sabine Devieilhe, the soprano Jaël Azzaretti and the stage director Clément Hervieu-Léger at rehearsals for Mitridate, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, February 2016.

Sabine Devieilhe, the soprano Jaël Azzaretti and the stage director Clément Hervieu-Léger at rehearsals for Mitridate, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, February 2016.

Mer de cimes arborées perdues dans les nuages, Shikoku.

Shikoku: a sea of tree-covered peaks

lost in the clouds.

In her ongoing exploration of Mozart, the coloratura took on the high notes of Ismene, the heroine of one of the composer’s early works.

In her ongoing exploration of Mozart, the coloratura took on the high notes of Ismene, the heroine of one of the composer’s early works.

In her ongoing exploration of Mozart, the coloratura took on the high notes of Ismene, the heroine of one of the composer’s early works.

In her ongoing exploration of Mozart, the coloratura took on the high notes of Ismene, the heroine of one of the composer’s early works.

High in the vocal stratosphere Named Artiste Lyrique of 2015, coloratura soprano Sabine Devieilhe has caused a sensation in 2016 singing Mozart’s Ismene and Handel’s Bellezza. In the fall, the soprano will be resting her voice before returning in 2017 as the Queen of the Night at the Opéra Bastille.

You only have to watch as she comes onstage at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, her slim figure clad in a golden-yellow dress, or listen to her produce the silvery high trills of a cabaletta from Bellini’s La Sonnambula, to understand why Sabine Devieilhe is a star. Her gentle, delicate appearance brings to mind the portraits executed by Regency painter Robert Tournières, who hails from the village of Ifs in Normandy, near Caen, just as she does. With her agile but strong voice, she is reminiscent of Natalie Dessay (although perhaps fuller and less otherworldly), whose 20-year repertoire-revolutionizing career Devieilhe so admires. After teaching cello at one point in her musical trajectory, she had an epiphany while performing with the Opéra de Rennes chorus: her real instrument was her voice. Abandoning the masculine bow, she moved to Paris and began to devote her time to developing the clarity of her voice and mastering the high notes.
 

Performers no longer tend to specialize these days, and her renditions of Rameau, Mozart, Bellini and Delibes soon confirmed the quicksilver nature of her coloratura soprano voice. “The coloratura soprano tessitura is inevitably defined by the very high notes,” she explains. “But from the Renaissance to the present day, you can include just about everything. Two years ago, German composer Manfred Trojahn wrote me songs to René Char’s poems. The creative process fascinates me. I’ve had some great opportunities in singing difficult-to-reach roles in terms of vocal rangeLakmé from the eponymous opera, Olympia in Tales of Hoffmann, Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, and probably one day Ophelia in Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet. I use the rest of my tessitura for Baroque music, which doesn’t really require the entire range of high notesunless you’re having a romp like we did last summer at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Conductor Emmanuelle Haïmwho is always looking for something newreally pushed me on the vocal effects for Bellezza. Krzysztof Warlikowski’s staging, which never leaves anyone indifferent, really helped me by rehumanizing the mystical flights of this allegorical virtue.”
 

Her roles in La Finta Giardiniera, The Magic Flute and this year’s fiery Mitridate revealed her to audiences in Aix, Lyon and Paris, and she confesses a passion for Mozart. She devoted a flamboyant recording to Mozart and his love life, through the Weber family. “Mozart had a great many women in his life,” she says, “but the three Weber sisters were the ones who determined the direction his life took. Whether out of love or friendship, he geared specific vocal passages to these three agile voices.” Bringing the roles of the lively Josepha Weber back down to earth, Sabine discovered in the original score of The Magic Flute that the Queen of the Night does not sing the fiendish series of repeated notes on a natural “a” but on the final “e” in nimmermehr. A mere detail? Not really. Because the harsh effect of this sharp vowel is different, making this muscular vocal demonstration akin to a scene of madness. “To perform these 12 minutesa huge deal when you’re a coloratura soprano like meyou really have to have reserves of energy left.”

 

AGENDA

CONCERT MOZART Le 4.09. Orchestre de chambre
de Lausanne. Direction : Raphaël Pichon.
Théâtre du Jorat. www.theatredujorat.ch

LA FLÛTE ENCHANTÉE Du 28.01 au 23.02.2017.
Opéra Bastille. www.operadeparis.fr

ET AUSSI…
MOZART : THE WEBER SISTERS Par Sabine Devieilhe,
Ensemble Pygmalion. Direction : Raphaël Pichon.
CD Erato / Warner Classics.

MITRIDATE Le Concert d’Astrée. Direction : Emmanuellle
Haïm. Mise en scène : Clément Hervieu-Léger.
DVD Warner Classics (à paraître).

Agenda

CONCERT MOZART

Le 4.09. Orchestre de chambre
de Lausanne. Direction : Raphaël Pichon.
Théâtre du Jorat. www.theatredujorat.ch

Hedvig Astrom Kushner

Next

Hedvig Astrom Kushner