Since making her debut at the Opéra de Paris, Nadine Denize (born in Rouen November 6, 1943) has become one of the most prominent exponents of the French lyric repertoire all over the world
She studied at the conservatoire à rayonnement régional
de Rouen, in Marie-Louise Christol's class, and entered the conservatoire
de Paris (rue de Madrid) in Camille Maurane's class at age eighteen. She
won a First prize and was hired by the Paris opera. She sang small roles
for two years, then was cast as Cassandra in Berlioz's LES TROYENS and
Marguerite in LA DAMNATION DE FAUST.
Her roles include many of the major dramatic mezzo soprano roles,
such as Charlotte WERTHER (with Alfredo Kraus and Georges
Prêtre at la Scala), Cassandre LES TROYENS (La Scala with Georges
Prêtre, Chicago with James Levine) and Didon
in the same piece at the Berlioz Festival in Saint Etienne under
Serge Baudo. She has also appeared in CARMEN (Arena di Verona, Paris,
Toronto, Hamburg, Santiago Chile), LA DAMNATION DE FAUST (Spoleto
Italy, Berlin), SAMSON ET DALILA and DIALOGUES DES CARMELITES (Mère
Marie in Paris and Toronto, La Première Prieure in Savonlinna
and London), PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE (recording with Herbert
von Karajan, Paris, Salzburg, Scala with Prêtre) and LOUISE (Marseille,
The German repertoire has also occupied a significant place in Denize's career. She was a remarkable Kundry PARSIFAL at the Opéra de Paris under Horst Stein with Jon Vickers, sang Venus TANNHÄUSER (Berlin, Bonn), Brangäne TRISTAN UND ISOLDE (Berlin, Paris, Chicago, under Ferdinand Leitner for the last full Tristan of Jon Vickers, Monte Carlo, Maggio Fiorentino), Fricka RHEINGOLD (Vienna, Münich, Paris, Chorégies d'Orange under Rudolf Kempe) and DIE WALKÜRE (Geneva, Münich with Wolfgang Sawallisch, San Francisco with Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek and Jess Thomas), Ortrud LOHENGRIN (Marseille, Lyon, Strasbourg), Waltraute GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (at Radio France with Giuseppe Patané), Octavian DER ROSENKAVALIER (Strasbourg, Vienna), Die Amme DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN (Geneva), Herodias SALOME (Festival de Radio France in Montpellier, Leipzig), Klytämnestra ELEKTRA (Nantes), Malik in Henze's L'UPUPA (Lyon) and The Mother HÄNSEL UND GRETEL (Geneva, Leipzig).
Denize has also appeared in several important roles of the Russian and Czech repertoire such as Larina EUGEN ONEGIN, Countess PIKOVAYA DAMA, Kostelnička JENŮFA and Kabanicha KÁT'A KABANOVÁ (Geneva with Jiří Bĕlohlávec).
Miss Denize is regularly present on the concert platform, where she sings with the most prestigious orchestras all over the world. She has performed works such as Beethoven MISSA SOLEMNIS, the major works of Berlioz, Berg SIEBEN FHÜHE LIEDER, Duruflé REQUIEM, Chausson LE POEME DE L'AMOUR ET DE LA MER, Mahler Symphonies and Cycles; Ravel SHÉHÉRAZADE, Schönberg GURRELIEDER, Stravinsky LES NOCES and LE ROSSIGNOL and Wagner WESENDONCK LIEDER.
She has performed under the baton of the world's great conductors
including Gerd Albrecht, Karl Böhm, Pierre Boulez, Myung Whun
Chung, Colin Davis, Sylvain Cambreling, Christoph von Dohnányi,
Eliahu Inbal, Armin
Janowski, Alain Lombard, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel, Sir Charles Mackerras,
Rostropovitch, Sir Georg Solti,
Yuri Temirkanov and Karl Tennstedt. She has also participated in numerous
-- Names which are links in this box and throughout this page refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website. BD
The Prix de Rome, or Grand Prix de Rome, was a French scholarship for
arts students, initially for painters and sculptors, that was established
in 1663 during the reign of Louis XIV of France. Winners were awarded a
bursary that allowed them to stay in Rome for three to five years at the
expense of the state. The prize was extended to architecture in 1720, music
in 1803, and engraving in 1804. The prestigious award was abolished in 1968
by André Malraux, the Minister of Culture.
The music prize was an award for composers allowing the winner to spend a year studying at the Villa Medici in Rome. It also entitled him to a five-year pension. The prize was adjudicated by the Paris Conservatoire. Entrants had to submit a fugue as proof of their compositional skills and the four successful candidates were then required to write a dramatic cantata to a text chosen by the judges.
Berlioz's efforts to win the prize are described at length in his Memoirs. He regarded it as the first stage in his struggle against the musical conservatism represented by the judges, who included established composers such as Luigi Cherubini, François-Adrien Boieldieu and Henri Montan Berton. Berlioz's stay in Italy as a result of winning the prize also had a great influence on later works such as Benvenuto Cellini and Harold en Italie. The composer subsequently destroyed the scores of two cantatas (Orphée and Sardanapale) almost completely, and reused music from all four of them in later works. There was a revival of interest in the cantatas in the late 20th century, particularly La mort de Cléopâtre, which has become a favourite showcase for the soprano and mezzo-soprano voice.
La Mort de Cléopâtre (The Death of Cleopatra) was Berlioz's third attempt to win the Prix de Rome from the Academie des Beaux-Arts. His first attempt in 1827 was La Mort d'Orphée, which failed to place. His second attempt in 1828 was Herminie, which took second place. Berlioz called La Mort de Cléopâtre "a lyric scene" for soprano and orchestra, setting a text by P.A. Vieillard. The vocal writing is extremely dramatic, but it ignores distinctions between recitative and aria, which infuriated the jury. The orchestral writing is lush and full, with extraordinary harmonies that likewise alienated the jury. La Mort de Cléopâtre was judged such a failure in the eyes of the Academie that it gave no first place prize that year. The following year, Berlioz won the Prix de Rome with his conservative La Mort de Sardanapale, but, having already composed his wildly experimental Symphonie fantastique, he found that he no longer cared all that much about the Academie.
© 1982 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded over two sessions, October 6 & 13, 1982. The first part (about Wagner) was transcribed and published in Wagner News in October of 1985. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1993 and 1998. This transcription was completed in 2018, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to Alfred Glasser, Director of Education at Lyric Opera of Chicago, for providing the translation during the interview. My thanks also go to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.