Updated: Natalie Dessay as Lucia di Lammermoor at the Met.
Yes, Natalie Dessay is a Jew. She converted to Judaism to marry husband and baritone, Laurent Naouri. They have two children.
Our source is Rebecca Mead who wrote a vibrant, colorful profile (“The Actress”) in The New Yorker, of Natalie Dessay, operatic soprano, who sang in “La Sonnambula” at the Met in 2009.
In the middle of this charming 2009 article Mead tossed in the surprising fact of Dessay's conversion to Judaism. Here is the abstract, you will need to register to read the entire piece online.
ABSTRACT: ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS about opera singer Natalie Dessay.
Writer observes Natalie Dessay in rehearsal for the Metropolitan Opera’s upcoming production of Bellini’s “La Sonnambula.” To compensate for the opera’s famously thin libretto, the director, Mary Zimmerman, had given the production a playful conceit. Zimmerman’s singers would appear as members of an opera company rehearsing a production of “La Sonnambula,” with Dessay playing an adored, self-absorbed soprano cast as Amina, the sleepwalker of the title.
Dessay is known for her unusual commitment to exploring the theatrical possibilities offered by opera, and she was more than happy to improvise and experiment. “La Sonnambula” is rarely played for comedy, but Dessay was finding a new way into the work.
Dessay will be in New York for two months this spring, but whenever possible, she is in a suburb of Paris where she lives with her husband, Laurent Naouri, a baritone, and their two children. Dessay is forty-three and has been married for fifteen years to Naouri, for whom she converted to Judaism. Dessay and Naouri try to insure that one of them is in Paris at all times, which in practice means that Naouri often has to fit his engagements around the schedule of Dessay, who is booked five years in advance.
Tells about Dessay’s childhood. She was raised in Bordeaux. From a young age, she wanted to be on stage, first as a dancer, then as an actress, and then as a singer. She did not begin her opera training until she was in her early twenties.
Typically, it takes five years to train an operatic voice, but Dessay started singing professionally after only a year. Mentions Dessay’s appearance in “Pelléas et Mélisande” at the Theater an der Wien earlier this year. More of a sung play than an opera, it is at the low end of Dessay’s range. Dessay was interested in the part because it would allow her to focus on acting as much as singing.
Describes Dessay watching a video of her performance. Dessay says that her highest artistic ambition is to embody a character so persuasively, and tell a story so convincingly that the audience forgets that she is singing. Tells about the removal of a cyst and a polyp from Dessay’s vocal cords and her recovery from the surgeries. Dessay began to change her repertoire before the surgeries, choosing roles that are less dependent on a younger voice.
Dessay abhors performing concerts and recitals. “What I like is being onstage with other people.” Briefly describes disagreements between Dessay and Zimmerman during a production of “Lucia,” at the Met, which Peter Gelb helped to smooth over.