The list of really successful albums of Broadway song by operatic singers is a short one, and there are still fewer by those whose native language is not English. Credit French soprano Natalie Dessay, now retired from opera performances, for appreciating the challenges involved. She neither applies an operatic voice to these songs nor tries to compete with popular singers on their own terms. Instead, like Renée Fleming, she creates a new voice, lower in register, rather quiet, and reflective of the dramatic approach of opera. Dessay takes an additional step: she commissions distinctive orchestral arrangements and works them out in detail with the Paris Mozart Orchestra under Claire Gibault. The results are indubitably a mixed bag, but the whole thing comes off quite a bit better than you might think, and it will stick in your head rather than evaporating like so many similar products. I Feel Pretty is a breathy mess, but Dessay in general does well to choose songs that although not terribly famous, fit her ideas here. Autour de minuit is the only French-language track; it's a French setting of Thelonious Monk's Round Midnight. You might sample the opening On a Clear Day (from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever), which sets out with clarity and verve what Dessay is trying to accomplish. Dessay apparently conceived this project herself after viewing paintings by Edward Hopper, and it does not have the feel of one of Sony's profit-inspired crossover outings. Quirky indeed but recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim