Concert Reviews

Recital: Impressions of Venice

“Joyce DiDonato is not just a singer, she’s a cheerleader carrying the torch for opera whenever she gets the chance.

On stage and in recital she’s Protean: she can do spitting fury in Handel, comedy in Donizetti, and when singing an aria designed for a castrato she can divest herself of all trace of femininity: the only constant is her perfect, golden tone. No wonder the Wigmore is having to put on a repeat of this recital, to cope with the demand.

Paris © Danielle Badiano

On she came, a blonde Kansas bombshell in a scarlet ball-dress with a scheme of an unusual sort [...] First up were two uncharacteristically unassuming ones by Vivaldi, in which we could savour her effortless coloratura and her ability to bring a lovely note seemingly out of nowhere. Then came five settings of Verlaine poems by Gabriel Faure, delivered with wonderful lightness and in velvet tones as DiDonato and her pianist David Zobel demonstrated their musical symbiosis. Rossini’s ‘La regata Veneziana’, which followed, became a bewitchingly comic turn …

I left after the third verse of the fourth encore – a sweetly un-ironic ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, by which time the audience had become this drama-queen’s slaves-for-life.”

~ Michael Church The Independent July 2012

“By the time she went to college to study to become a singing teacher, Joyce DiDonato had been to exactly two different American states: Kansas and Colorado. New York and San Francisco were as yet unvisited, Europe and Asia as yet undreamed of. It’s a story DiDonato herself tells with practised humour. Jump forward 20 years and there isn’t a continent or metropolitan hub unconquered by this supreme mezzo-soprano, whose career may have taken her impossibly far from her Kansas beginnings, but whose sunny, unpretentious workmanship is still pure Midwest.

Last night at the Wigmore Hall it was DiDonato who acted as European tour-guide, taking her audience on a vivid and varied tour of Venice through the ears of Vivaldi, Fauré, Rossini and Reynaldo Hahn.

Fauré’s Cinq melodies “de Venise” surely finds the city at the height of summer – heat lulling even the waters to heavy stillness. There’s a generosity to DiDonato’s voice and manner that stretches into the very corners of music, filling them up with character and atmosphere. Sunning herself languidly in the composer’s street scenes she found the humour (and the precious legato) in “Mandoline” that sees the narrator’s best attempts at matter-of-fact description charmed off-course down melismatic side-streets of melody.

[T]he great moments with her are those when all else falls away and she delivers straight. Schubert’s glistening Gondelfahrer offered this stillness at the centre of the programme – an unfussy moment of pure music that asked nothing and everything from its listeners.

There are a few performers whose voice – not celebrity, nor hype, nor their particular repertoire choice, but just their basic instrument – is enough to demand space in the diary. DiDonato’s is one – absolutely even from the characterful lower register through to the glowing top (thrillingly on show in Donato’s three encores). Joyce DiDonato is worth cancelling plans for. And if she promises to take you to Venice – well, it might just prove the most romantic trip of your life.”

~ Alexandra Coghian The Arts DeskJuly 2012

Leaving the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, photographed by the divine David Zobel

“La plus italienne des mezzo-sopranos américaines chante Venise. Celle de Vivaldi et de Rossini, bien sûr, mais aussi, plus méconnue, celle de Schubert, Fauré et Reynaldo Hahn. La native du Kansas puise dans sa large palette de couleurs pour sublimer celles, changeantes, du Grand Canal et brosser la nostalgie d’une Venise triomphante. Sa voix solaire et ductile comme la lagune sait en capter la vie et les tourments, les secrets et la légèreté, bien au-delà du décor brillant de carte postale.”

~ Olivier Olgan Le Figaro July 2012

“Joyce Di Donato leaves nothing to be desired. [...] How she animates a single note with so many atmospheres is breath-taking as much as the magic echo of the often quiet endings to phrase [...] Storms of enthusiasm in the audience.”

~  Barbara Eckle Der TagesspiegelJune 2012

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Peter Bierwirth said…

    Yes, it really was worthwhile having made a stopover in Paris for the JoyceDiDonato recital. Undoubtedly, she is today’s leading Mezzo, especially for Rossinini’s coloratura highlights, but also, and this was new for me, for the more reflecting and romantic moods of Schubert lieder. The audience at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées were mostly belcanto connaisseurs who know why they came. However, since Schubert was followed by Schumann and I applauded when Schubert was finished, but Joyce went right on with singing Schumann, I – who followed and understood the German text delivered with the programme – was a bit baffled. Not limiting her repertoire to Vivaldi and Rossini, we heard Venise sonbgs from Fauré and the lesser known Reynaldo Hahn. Standing ovations (what else?) for this extraordinary and very charming gril from Kansas

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There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.

~ Joyce DiDonato