Blog

Getting back into the swing of things

It’s HARD to finish a soothing, relaxing, rejuvenating vacation! I want one more day to swim in the pool as the mountain waterfall plays in the background. I wouldn’t mind one more back massage. And certainly I will miss the abundant breakfast buffet (although another day of that might put me over the edge!) It’s been perfectly perfect and just what the doctor ordered.

Tomorrow I head off to my “first day at school”, as we opera singers often refer to the first day of rehearsals. It’s a good analogy, because a real sense of anticipation fills your head the night before making sleep a bit hard to come by, and you put a little more thought into what you will wear to that first rehearsal, as you hope that you’re prepared enough, and that your voice decides to show up! (Even now I still silently think to myself, “Boy, I hope they don’t fire me!”)

But in preparing mentally to get back to work, calling upon the great singers of the past somehow can provide that extra “push” needed to snap out of the hot-oil-massage-induced-bliss, and my friends, there truly is none greater than the First Lady of Song.

I had not seen this tape before, and I can’t stop playing it and marveling at the sheer genius that pours out of her. Nearly 3 minutes of acappella singing and she lands SMACK IN THE MIDDLE of the final chord, PERFECTLY in tune. PERFECTLY. Every note perfectly in place. A billion different colors and textures and rhythms and emotions. She astonishes me and in seeing this I think how FORTUNATE we are to live in an age where this kind of unbelievably rare performance is caught on tape to be enjoyed and admired by those of us who couldn’t hear her live!

Enjoy, and see you in Salzburg! (I’m EXCITED!!!)

P.S. This video was located during a youtube marathon that was instigated by the great Larry Brownlee who had shared a favorite video of his by the inspired Mel Torme, (which led us on a late-night tour of Nat King Cole and Danny Kaye and Frank…aaah!) But I had forgotten how brilliant the “Velvet Fog” was, and how SMOOTH his voice was – not to mention how much control over shading and dynamics he employed. Here is the video he posted – perhaps he’s a bit past his “vocal prime” – lord knows we’ll all get there one day! – but that only means more richness of interpretation and smoothness. It’s heavenly!

This makes me curious – who are your favorite singers outside of the “operatic” field?

21 Comments

  1. Vanette said…

    My old favorites were Cleo Lane & Sarah Vaughn with Bing Crosby as a nostalgia trip for my dad. I don't listen to that type of popular music now because I find that there's too much noise involved; the bass and drums are too prominent and melody is missing. (There's a New Yorker cartoon showing an old man walking past a young man carrying a ghetto blaster. The tag-line is "They're writing songs of love but not for me.")

    PS – I'm glad I found your blog. It is very interesting to "see" backstage.

  2. Vanette said…

    Unfortunately we won't see you in Salzburg, we'll have to wait until next year at Carnegie Hall then later at the Met.

  3. Willym said…

    Thanks again for a wonderful Barber. Glad you had a chance to rest. As to favorite non-operatic singers – you've already chosen two of the best but I'd add to it Cleo Laine, Sarah Vaughan, Alberta Hunter and Bobby McFerrin.

  4. Alixkovich said…

    I would say my favourites are the "old" francophone singers: Jacques Brel, Joe Dassin, Édith Piaf, Gilbert Bécaud,…

  5. Mei said…

    I'm a big fan of British soul… Right now my favourite singers are Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, and Joss Stone…

    Enjoy your "schooling"…

  6. Encoresse said…

    My non-operatic favorite is definitely Lara Fabian! Her "Caruso" is just stunning. As is her "Je suis malade" (my fav of all she's done). Youtube it and you'll be in for a treat (I think)!

  7. g4thz said…

    Beyonce. For sure.

  8. gaulimauli said…

    Oh, Joyce!As John McEnroe used to say:"You cannot be serious!"Who in his right mind would think of firing you!But, I guess, even the best get butterflies at times when stepping onto a brightly lit stage and launch an aria before a packed house. It sure would scare the hell out of me. Singers I like-none current, but ….
    Edith Piaf-Rien de rien
    Lotta Lenya-Pabst film
    Louis Prima-I wanna be like you from the Jungle Book. And all these wonderful people who sing in the trenches of Baroque who are rarely, if ever, seen by the public:Gritton,Zilio,Fisher, Sampson, Zanetti, Invernizzi to mention a few.And Andreas Scholl.
    Guten Abend-gute Nacht! A little Brahms lullaby, for a good night's sleep.

  9. Valdita said…

    Ani diFranco, from the contemporary singers. Her sense of timing and colouring is fantastic – and she does it all while playing dazzling guitar riffs and rhythms, with inspired lyrics.

    And then of course all the golden oldies like Edith Piaf, Ella, etc.

    Enjoy the new show, Joyce! So glad you got in a decent break. :)

  10. Klassikfan said…

    Hi Joyce, you are excited about Salzburg – and Salzburg is more than excited about you (you know that after your "Händel" at the Festspielhaus last year)! "Norma" is the ONLY opera production of this year's festival which is already completely SOLD OUT! I'm glad I have got a ticket ;-)) Looking forward to next Monday! -
    BTW, one of my favorite non-opera singers is Paolo Conte.

  11. helenbop said…

    A fascinating point and interesting to know your taste in popular music as often classical music lovers cease to see the genius in people like Bill Evans and Bud Powell (to name a few) who give great melodic and harmonic insight into their own compositions and the great standard repertoire. As far as voices are concerned Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin (under-rated!!), Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, Anita O'Day, Harry Belafonte, the greek songs sung by Nana Mouskouri (very beautiful, not the rest), Mark Murphy, Mina, Caetano Veloso, and many, many more. I would recommend any of the videos on youtube with Frank and Ella (never recorded an album together – tragedy!!) and wish you ALL the very best in Salzburg!

  12. Vanette said…

    I should also mention Fred Astaire & Mabel Mercer. Neither had "good" voices but every word came through and I always smiled when I heard them.

  13. Mr. Classical Guy said…

    This one is easier and harder at the same time.

    Frank "The Chairman of the Board" "Ol' Blue Eyes" Sinatra
    Mel "The Velvet Fog" Torme
    Sarah vaughn
    Ella
    Nina Simone
    Harry Connick, Jr
    Aretha Franklin
    Marvin Gaye
    Al Jareeau (I wish him a speedy recovery)
    Ray Charles
    Robin McKelle
    Sophie Milman
    Peggy Lee
    Nat "King" Cole
    Peter Cetera (the ladies like him so I like him)
    David Clayton Thomas
    Mike Smith (of the Dave Clark 5)
    More but I would take up all of your bandwith…

    Steve

  14. Chris said…

    I don't much care for singers of anything but opera. Nonetheless I recall Juan Diego in an interview saying he liked Amy Winehouse. This caused the blogger to deem him "too cool for school". Chaque a son gout.

  15. Charlotte said…

    Fred Astaire
    Rosemary Clooney
    Noel Coward
    Billie Holiday
    Patsy Kline
    Beatrice Lillie
    Ivor Novello
    Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
    The Beatles

  16. Rachel Budde said…

    Joni Mitchell. LOVE HER. "Blue" is, hands down, my favorite of her albums, and one of my favorite albums of all time.

    I'm also really liking Chely Wright as of late. Her new CD, "Lifted Off the Ground" is a singer-songwriter masterpiece.

  17. AliceP said…

    Outside opera ………. oh hard – but I admit it I DO like West End star Michael Ball and of course also the Dane Stig Rossen. "Belters" as someone once called them, but buy can they convey a song of raw emotion! Bette Midler ……. spine tickling and Ms Streisand – oh at her best she rocked! But my first and last love is opera and where I always return to find that deep fulfilling sense of pure joy of the voice.

  18. Sibyl said…

    David Bowie. Patti Smith. The miracle that was Fred Astaire (trust the words and syncopate the rhythms to underscore them), Ella, Piaf, Uta Lemper, Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong (tell me you have heard Ella and Louis Armstrong's album of duets), Patti Labelle, Joan Baez, Morrissey, Bryan Ferry, Ian McCulloch, Barbara Cook, Joni Mitchell. Frank Sinatra when he still sang the melody straight. Have you heard Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings? Youtube "100 Days": I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Possibly my favorite, despite a very, very limited and idiosyncratic instrument, but with an astonishing ability to tell a story, is Elvis Costello. If you're blue and want to wallow in it, it's hard to beat Costello's album with Burt Bacharach.

  19. pesce42 said…

    I am a huge fan of k.d.lang. She has the voice from heaven above! Also, I love listening to the older singers- Ella, Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone.

    Can't wait to hear how the twitters are going!

  20. Georgios said…

    I will add my vote for Ella, what an amazing talent and her obvious joy of sharing her gift with the audience was with her all her life. (so many recorded performances from late in her career show her in well worn voice, but with such sensitivity and passion), her Cole Porter songbook recording is for me such a wonderful achievement of decorous simplicity. Her recordings never leave my iPod. And alongside Callas' studio recording of Medea in 1957 are the two albums I make sure any new friends and colleagues listen to, as they have defined my life so far and I love sharing the joy they bring to my ears.

  21. Yankeediva said…

    Thank you for all the amazing tributes and shout-outs to these singers! Some I've never heard of, but will enjoy discovering. Just points out how wonderfully varied tastes are, and how talent comes in so very many packages!

    Cheers!

Leave a Comment

Audio Player

Newsletter

Twitter

31 mins ago

RT @atharaud: Souvenir de notre enregistrement Mozart @JoyceDiDonato http://t.co/ZnRqKUtY9u

31 mins ago

RT @jnoulinmerat: #design meeting with beau_rhett for @loftopera & @joycedidonato #barberLOFT #albumrelease #setdesignhttp://t.co/ReoIWK

11 hours ago

RT @WarnerClassics: Haven't caught @JoyceDiDonato fever yet? Join @SinfiniMusic as they catch up on her best bits to date! http://t.co/PkQZ

FOLLOW Joyce DiDonato

Instagram

Facebook

Flickr

Bring that innocent, childlike sense of wonder to your craft, and do whatever you need to find that truth again. It will continually teach you how to be present, how to be alive, and how to let go. Therein lies not only your artistic freedom, but your personal freedom as well!

~ Joyce DiDonato