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Michel Legrand Natalie Dessay Children

On Nov. 17, Sony Classical will be digitally releasing “Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Woman.” The album, first conceived for Barbara Streisand almost 45 years ago by composer Michel Legrand, will follow Natalie Dessay through a story that spans from birth to death while capturing all the beauty therein.

According to the New York Times, the partnership between Legrand and Dessay came about back in 2008, when Dessay was producing a live revue of songs by Legrand. After touring Europe and Canada together with a jazz trio, they released an album in 2013 titled “Entre Elle et Lui,” featuring two songs made famous by Barbara Streisand, whom Dessay deeply admires: “Papa Can You Hear Me?” and What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”

Dessay’s work with Legrand’s material was far from over. In an interview with the NY Times Legrand says: “I played her some melodies and told her it was an oratorio for one voice and a symphonic orchestra. She started to cry and shout, she was walking on the ceiling, and she said, ‘Oh la la, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to record it, give it to me.’” In producing this album, Legrand reunited with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, now aged 92 and 88 respectively.

While Barbara Streisand ultimately turned down the project, certain songs have found their way onto different albums, such as “Between Yesterday and Tomorrow,” and “Mother and Child,” in which the singer fills both roles as a sort of duet.

According to Dessay, Streisand not performing the full oratorio “freed me to be the inspiration for the cycle’s completion. The inclusion of birth and death speaks to me, and I really wanted to perform that.”

While the project has taken 45 years, Legrand has brought to it the entirety of the experience he has gained over his long career.  “That’s what’s great about Michel,” Dessay says. “He has a freedom today that he may not have had 30 or 40 years ago. If he wants to pay tribute to composers he loves, well, he just does. It’s his way of saying, ‘This is part of my world, this is what has nourished me, and now it’s part of my music.’” Legrand himself says “The older you get, the better you get, and I write 45 times better than I did back then.”

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Composer Michel Legrand’s oratorio about one woman’s life, which was written for Barbra Streisand but left only partly recorded by the superstar vocalist, has been completed by operatic coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay and is now scheduled for digital release by Sony Classical on November 17 under the title Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Woman.

The song cycle has lyrics by Legrand’s longtime collaborators, Alan and Marilyn Bergman. The hard-copy CD is scheduled for release January 5, 2018.

News of the release was first reported by The New York Times. The project, which traces a woman’s life experience from childhood, through first love, married life, and parenthood, had been planned by the writers since the early 1970s. Streisand reportedly expressed initial interest, but was unwilling to commit to the full project. Streisand has been a longtime interpreter of the French composer’s songs, including “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” “The Summer Knows,” "The Windmills of Your Mind" and songs from the film Yentl, including “Papa Can You Hear Me?”

Streisand ended up recording several songs from the oratorio, then titled Life Cycle of a Woman, including “Between Yesterday and Tomorrow” and “Mother and Child,” but reportedly declined to complete the entire cycle, for several reasons, including the way the oratorio began and ended, and the way Legrand wanted to record it, Streisand told the Times.

Dessay, who sang with the Metropolitan Opera, retired in 2013 and has been touring with Legrand and a jazz trio. She reportedly worked with a vocal coach to retrain her voice for a more pop rendition of the songs. The French-born singer made her debut with the Met in 1994, and performed across the U.S. and internationally, including the 2009 title role in La sonnambula in its first performance at the Met in more than 40 years. She won an Olivier Award in London in 2008 for her performance in La Fille Du Regiment. Dessay was featured in the 2013 documentary film BecomingTraviata, about her growth in the title role through several European productions. She retired from the operatic stage in that same year, following a performance in the title role of Manon in Toulouse, France, and has concentrated on her jazz career.