Dame Felicity Lott, the aristo in spite of herself

“I'm always surprised when I think about my life! exclaims Felicity Lott

Dame Felicity Lott, the aristo in spite of herself

“I'm always surprised when I think about my life! exclaims Felicity Lott. Listening to him, his story (told in perfect French) is that of an ugly duckling - "so awkward and tall" - who discovers himself a swan during a stay in France in the late 1960s A fable worthy of Cinderella: the young singer with the limpid voice is suddenly propelled from the world of amateur shows that her parents put on ("From Noël Coward, musical comedies...") to the big stages around the world. Subscribed to the leading roles on the stage of the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival, she settled right next door ("In fifteen minutes, I can be in rehearsal."). Dame Felicity, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996, is 75 years old today. We find her with happiness at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées where she sings, on April 3 and 5, the sparkling role of the Grand Duchess of Crackenthorpe in La Fille du régiment by Donizetti (in concert version under the baton of Hervé Niquet, with Jodie Devos and Sahy Ratia). Encounter.

Le Point: You are the most Francophile of English singers. Where does this love of French come from?

Dame Felicity Lott: Music! In any case, French came into my life at the same time as the love of music, that is to say right away. Everyone sang in my family, my parents gave amateur shows, which explains why I made my first record (well, my first recording) at two years old! My mother loved the French language, and once a week, she made us speak French at meals. My father didn't understand anything… which greatly amused my mother. At the time of studying, I therefore chose to do a degree in French at Royal Holloway College… A magical place, built on the model of the Château de Chambord, a marvel. The third year of college, I went to Voiron, near Grenoble, as an English assistant in high school. I had a lot of free time, for the first time in my life. At home, there was the violin, the piano, the singing, the choir… There, I only had a few hours of teaching per week. I also had boyfriends, which changed me from England. Long live France !

A teacher you met at the conservatory of Grenoble makes you work... What do you discover then?

She adopted me during my stay, invited me to her house in Grasse, and sent me to participate in the International Summer Academy in Nice. She made me work a lot of Mozart, and that was decisive later on. Pamina from The Magic Flute was my first major role. It was in Nice, listening to other young singers, that I discovered Ravel, Le Jet d'eau by Debussy, songs on poems by Baudelaire, Fauré. What a revelation! English poetry bothered me, but with the distance from French, I allowed myself to feel all the literary and musical beauty… And then I love the sounds of French. Take the simplest first names: "Roger", "Robert". There's music in that "r"!

You have the image of a great lady of music, and you always sing aristocratic roles until this Grand Duchess of Crackenthorpe in La Fille du régiment…

I was even queen! The Queen of Sparta in La Belle Hélène by Offenbach, a production by Laurent Pelly that I loved doing so much. Yes, it's funny, for me coming from the world of Gilbert and Sullivan [authors of operettas from the end of the 19th century, editor's note], I am a "lady" on the stage. I can not believe it. Especially since it's a lot because of my height, a source of great complexes for so long. I sang very little Italian music... Look at my big hands: "Your little hand is frozen", it's a famous passage from La Bohème. With me, it would never work! My voice corresponds more to Strauss' operas, when there are more lyrics and no big tragedy scene. I really like to sing Poulenc too. Always sing in French… like in La Fille du régiment. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be better if I stopped before people were like, "It's too bad she doesn't have her voice anymore." But I love to sing! Last summer I did a show in Dinard with Lambert Wilson… What a joy. I just avoid singing "I have two lovers", I don't want people to be like, "Oh, really? »

La Fille du régiment, April 3 and 5, https://www.theatrechampselysees.fr