Blog

ROYGBIV

I’m not a fan of silence. Wait.  Allow me, please, to clarify:  I’ll take contemplative silence whenever I can, or the silence that comes from crisp mountain air or the hush that befalls your heart when gazing up at the galaxy of stars on a moonless night. Oh, I love that kind of silence. But silence in the face of oppression? Nope. Not a fan. Never have been. Can’t imagine I ever will be. That doesn’t mean that I always know how to speak up, that I always do speak up, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I always know the most effective way to speak up in order to actually invite people to listen, and then – under the best of circumstances – perhaps to actually feel the call to action. No. I’m not an expert in any of those areas.

But I can tell you that I at heart, in the very center of my being, not comfortable in staying quiet about causes I am personally invested in.  Especially when a person’s inherent dignity is at stake.

I have two passions that I simply cannot stay silent on: arts education, and equality.

Finally in the real "Land of Oz", Lansing, Kansas.

Finally in the real “Land of Oz”, Lansing, Kansas.

Today, my mind is on equality.  I have been the fortunate student of some of the most courageous, brave, stirring and inspiring teachers I’ve ever known: my gay and lesbian friends.

I sit here as a straight, white woman, born into a lower-middle class, Christian, American family, and because I’ve chosen a profession where the woman is celebrated, (perhaps even revered) I’ve never, ever had to prove myself in a public venue as being worthy of existence.  I have no first-hand knowledge of what that struggle entails.  (I’ve absolutely had to fight my own personal sense of self-worth, but that’s an entirely different post!)  Society has never deemed me “lesser than”, simply because of my genetics, race, class or sexual preference.

But I have witnessed it. And it pains me.  I know of this oppression, denigration, dismissal, abuse, and utter disdain that has been shoveled upon some of the most beautiful human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, through their personal stories, their suicides, their illnesses, their cowering and their subtle shame that often seeps through their downward cast eyes.

Now the 21st Century world knows first hand of this criminal, attempted superiority as images pour out of Russia under the permission of these official anti-homosexual propaganda laws.  (I’m resisting to link to any of the shocking, repulsive images, because I simply cannot bring myself to spread them around further.)  The Russian Government (among others) is systematically silencing their own citizens and those of us that support them around the world.  (I have dear friends and colleagues that are Russian and incredibly tolerant and generous human beings – it isn’t them.  It is their government ~ a plight I’m particularly empathetic to, being a child of the USA. We all certainly have our own civic obstacles!)

But, you know what? It’s not only Russia. There are well-intentioned parents, siblings, friends, strangers, communities, schools, as well as governments, that insist on trying to make homosexuals feel like lesser human beings, hoping for their silence, which is seemingly so much easier for their oppressors to bear. “These gays” are much greater human beings for having to look into the eyes of these misguided forces that try with all of their might to degrade them, and yet they audaciously stand up and say, “No. You listen: I am worthy.”  What a courageous, shining example of being true to yourself.  They deserve the applause and celebration for their valiant courage and for teaching us (if we’re strong and brave enough to learn) how to be better human beings.

On Saturday night I will be the honored guest of the BBC Proms and will lend my voice to the greatest party for Classical Music on the planet: the Last Night of the Proms.  I am MOST honored and feel incredibly humbled to be asked to take part.  We programmed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” ages ago, but as the Russian law came into focus and I felt this impending sense of dread wash over me, I knew that I simply had to personally dedicate my performance on Saturday to all of those brave, valorous gay and lesbian souls whose voices are currently being silenced – either by family, friends, or by their government.  As I’ve done in the past, this is a very individual dedication made only here (not on the stage of the glorious Royal Albert Hall), but I do invite you all to use your own voice, in whatever (safe!) capacity you can, and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves at this moment.

This simply cannot stand.  We are TRULY better than this.  And it is the very least I can do to repay my wonderful life-teachers who have supported me, lifted me up, and quite simply, made me a better person.  Here’s to knowing your own worth … Here’s to daring to dream  … Here’s to flying over the rainbow and, of course, to being utterly fabulous while soaring!!

The full, fabulous spectrum from the Santa Fe Sky. July 2013

The full, fabulous spectrum from the Santa Fe Sky. July 2013

62 Comments

  1. Martin said…

    Dear Joyce,

    Thank you.

    Once in a thousand years an artist, intellect and human being with the talent and power to change the world for good arrives. (That’s you btw!)

    You really gotta go for being the first straight, female, Christian, President of the USA – all in good time.

    Meanwhile looking forward to being there to see you, live on Saturday, as you light up the entire planet in your ‘sparkly’ dress with your music and love.

    I always thought you were absolutely amazing, now I know that you are utterly fabulous!

    Seriously, just the sincerest Thank You.

  2. Ben said…

    Brilliant – so full of the humanity that the Putins of this world are missing.

    You know that the Last Night of the Proms is the occasion to make a bit of a splash (mezzos particularly) so feel free to add to the jollity – and gaiety – of human existence.

  3. Annie said…

    Thank you as always for your unwavering and fierce commitment to equality. Fear (which begets hatred) of the unknown is so dangerous, so damaging to it’s victims. My lovely wife and I brought our two baby boys into this world not one month ago, and each day I pray for acceptance for them, for us, and for families like ours. As it is, I have to adopt my own children “just in case” even though I live in a state where my marriage is legal. Things will change, but with change comes fear of change…and voice like yours help more than you know.
    Emily, Owen, Graham and I send our gratitude.

  4. Eric Carswell said…

    I have quite enjoyed your immense talents as a singer for years. I am truly at a loss for words. I started this wanting to write something utterly eloquent in praise of your support for us gays and the lgbt Communtiy. However, I’m so happily suprised that someone with an audience so vast and diverse would stand up for people like me that I’m truly dumbstruck! All I can say is thank you, thank you for your voice that helped me through the difficulties I’ve had growing up in the south Gay and has inspired me in so many ways. Thank you for the nights you comforted me when I wanted it all just to end. I’m truly and completely thankful to you for everything you have done and unknowingly done. Thank you especially for this post, you will continue to be an inspiration to me, and I’m sure, many others.

    Thank You, Joyce!!

    Your devoted fan,
    Eric Carswell

  5. Leslie said…

    Thanks.

    So special.

  6. Colin Markey said…

    Hello Joyce,

    I’m so happy that you wrote this entry! You certainly live up to your first name! You’ve brought me so much joy over the years, especially the time you graciously invited my sister and I backstage at the Met when you graced the stage in Stuarda. I hope all is well, and I look forward to the new Heggie project!

    Lots of love,
    Colin Markey

  7. mary nilan said…

    Thank you JD for standing up for equality-This is a beautifully written letter and says it all so eloquently. I do know a bit about inequality from personal experience-came out when I was 14 years old and some of my experiences range from being having my phone conversation taped (by foster family I was living with), beaten up, fired from a job as an RN, (by “Mercy” nuns) life threatened, withdrew job offer once I was found out to be lesbian-thanks to those “Mercy” nuns. I called the nun who was administrator who was trying to ruin my life and said that i was going to apply for another RN position and if I didn’t get that job, I would “call the Watertown Daily Times newspaper and tell them that Mercy Hospital graduated a Queer.” I never had another problem after that. Suffice to summarize, after moving to San Francisco, I became a Manager of Surgical Services Dept with 65 employees in a major hospital in The City, went to law school while working full time, practiced law for 3 years, then taught at SF State University as an Assistant Professor in Nursing and then became Director of a Simulation Education Center of CPMC. I retired 2 years ago at 69 and am loving it. There are many other stories I could tell, but I won’t ramble on anymore! Thanks for listening but know it makes a big difference in younger gays and lesbians when people stand up and speak up for what is right.
    a heartfelt thank you, mary nilan
    PS You are my favorite Mezzo

  8. Robin Murphy said…

    Thank you, my dear, for your inspirational and heartfelt words. So proud of your compassionate warrior spirit.

  9. Betty Sledge said…

    I wish we all could be as articulate as you are, Joyce. I wish all my friends had your heart and understanding and most of all the love you so freely bestow. I, for one, applaud your stand.

  10. Mooji said…

    Joyce, you rock! Namaste!

  11. Caitlin Lynch said…

    My goodness, Joyce, you are an angel of love and goodness. Your talent and beauty inspire all of us. You are changing the world, woman. It is so spectacular to witness. THANK YOU for using your voice. So moving and so important.
    xo,
    Caitlin

  12. Andrew Rudin said…

    Joyce– Thank you so much, of course for your wonderful musicianship and artistry, but still more for this message. A petition I began http://www.change.org/MetOpera now has 8000 signatures asking the Met to dedicate its opening night to standing in solidarity with LGTB people throughout the world. It has attracted the NY Times in a major article and interest throughout the world. It makes such a difference to have the outspoken and heartfelt comments from an artist of your influence, a major favorite at the Met of course, and I hope they will follow your brave and principled stand and show a humanitarian gesture of support. Art and artists CAN matter. I’m personally very grateful.

  13. Peggy Fox said…

    As usual, your humanity could not take this lying down, in that awful sort of silence. I share your feelings, and while listening on BBC3 to your performance, I’ll be thinking over every word of wisdom you just wrote, and join you in saying: Here’s to flying over the rainbow’! As well as being a wonderful artist, you’re a woman after my own heart. Thank you, dear Joyce.

  14. Jo Lyday said…

    While the world has come to recognize and celebrate your enormous talent, those of us who have known you as a very young artist celebrate your spirit and humility. You are the same dear and caring girl we knew in the beginning. That is why you are so beloved.

  15. Tom Sillitti - Lyric Opera of Chicago said…

    My dear Joyce,

    I have been privileged to share our stage with you several times and look forward to it again very soon! Now I know why your gift is so amazingly special. No amount of study and technique makes you a great artist. We all know that it is what comes from the inside, and you have just exposed all of your wonderful beauty!

    Thank you from the bottom of all the collective gay and lesbian hearts everywhere! Thank you for your great humanity and your beautiful heart.

    Much love to you,
    Tom

  16. Ellen S. said…

    Thank you for your powerful, heartfelt words. When I was 16 I was terrified that I might be a lesbian. At that age who really knows what they are. I tried so hard to be straight. At 25 it was obvious to me that my greatest fear was true. Over the next 40 years my life as I know it now evolved. In all but the last 8 years I lived in a closet. The closet is oppressive but I felt that it was necessary for family, job, life, survival. As the times changed I gradually crept out of that closet. Last month I married my partner of 22 years. We have a wonderful life. Thanks to you and others who have demonstrated in word and deed, support for alternate lifestyles, being LGBT is getting more acceptable and easier. Thank you for speaking out.

  17. Richard said…

    Hi Joyce

    I thought Stonewall, our LGBT rights campaigning charity, ought to know about your dedication, so I sent them a link to your blog entry. I hope you don’t mind.

    Have fun tomorrow evening – I haven’t been to a Last Night for over 30 years, but I am always there in spirit! Looking forward to seeing you again in Maria Stuarda at Covent Garden – can’t wait!

    Love

    Richard.

  18. Susan said…

    Thank you.

  19. henry said…

    Brava (Yankee)Diva!!

    Now, knock ‘em dead as you sail gloriously through Mr. Arne’s joyful tune!

  20. Joyce, your voice speaks for many. Thank you for this very important stand you have taken for those who can’t speak. Let us hope this continues to change so that everyone is equal.

  21. Paul Schleuse said…

    Thank you so much for speaking up for equality. Art is a part of society, therefore artists who are given a voice are always political in their words or their silence. I only wish that you (and the BBC) would seize on the Last Night as an opportunity to make this dedication PUBLICALLY, so that oppressed people all over the world (including Russia) could hear your message of support and hope. Blogging about it is, literally, the least you can do.
    Toi Toi Toi!

  22. Dear Joyce- Thank you for your support, song and utter fabulousness regarding education and equal rights. This gay man feels particularly fortunate to have shared the stage with you at NYCO last gala at Lincoln Center with Julius Rudel conducting. You were – and are – a class act. Regards – Daniel

  23. Lindoro Almaviva said…

    Great post. You go girl!

  24. David Nice said…

    Dear Joyce (if I may), I salute you from the very bottom of my heart for this. It’s sad that you have to be one of the few to stand out – why the hell aren’t there more singers protesting against the resurgence of Nazi values in Russia? – but glorious that you do it in the way you’ve chosen. That only makes you the more exceptional, puts you right up there for me with Stephen Fry – whose address to Cameron and the International Olympic Committee you approach here – and Desmond Tutu, whose unequivocal words about going to hell if heaven were homophobic kick started me into action (and I haven’t stopped ranting yet. Won’t attend a Gergiev performance until he speaks up or out, however difficult that might be given the Faustian pact he’s made).

    I’m sure the British – and indeed, at the Last Night, the international – public would applaud you even louder if you were to say a few words on air before you sing ‘Over the Rainbow’ as to its special significance. We can bury Putin in rainbows: I loved the zebra crossing painted ROYGBIV outside the Russian embassy in Stockholm. Let’s do it with wit as well as with anger.

    Diecimille grazie. Off to link to this on the Arts Desk ‘when artists could speak out’ piece. Look forward to your interview with Alexandra there tomorrow and all high spirits for the Prom, which you will of course love.

  25. Jenny said…

    I discovered opera when I was 8, and discovered I was a lesbian when I was 14. If I had read something like this when I was a teenager, life would’ve been much, much easier. You’ve truly made the world a better place. Thank you.

  26. Marge Seibel said…

    I can remember when a friend told me he was gay. All I felt was loyalty to him and the certainty that nothing would change between us. Except for now I worried that he would be a victim of prejudice. And the loyalty you feel for your friends, Joyce, comes shining through. Why doesn’t this love and loyalty crush the prejudice? I just trusted my friend. It’s so simple.

  27. Rosie W said…

    My dearest Joyce-

    I’m not sure that words can express how much you inspire me. You are eloquent, thoughtful, and kind, and this post just further shows how dedicated you are to giving a voice to the voiceless.

    If I am able to be a tenth of the woman you are, I will consider myself successful.

    Thank you for your words, your voice (speaking and singing!), and your beauty.

    P.S. I’ll be at the Kaufmann Center in a couple weeks to see you sing Romeo. I’ll try not to fangirl too hard when you take the stage :)

  28. Mark Bargen said…

    … stands …

  29. Sarah Salter said…

    Thank you. I have long been a devoted fan of your work, and share your passion for arts education. To read this public statement moves me to write, to thank you for your thoughtful, strong statement on a subject that has touched me and my family and shaded our lives.

  30. Ruth Steinberg said…

    Joyce–Your voice sings out in music and for equality. Both are glorious songs. Thank you.–Ruth

  31. Thanks for standing up for LGBT people in Russia.
    Gay activists will be holding a vigil outside the War Memorial Opera House tonight here in SF at 7 pm, to show solidarity with LGBT Russians. We have the endorsement of diva lesbian couple Patricia Racette and Beth Clayton, and Racette is performing tonight. More info here:
    http://tinyurl.com/l45ygds

  32. Graham Spicer said…

    Oh Joyce, you really are so special. What does it take: a blog post, an announcement, a tweet, an interview, and you can (help)change the world. Yet how many do it… Thanks you for you words, spirit and courage.

  33. Tony said…

    Dear Joyce:
    Thank you; as a gay man but more precisely, a human being; I am touched by your courage and empathy. We still have a long way to go not only in Russia but in the USA as well; I applaud your most generous gift of speaking up for those who perhaps, are not allowed to.

  34. Charles Haynes said…

    Thank you for speaking out for all those who are struggling to be heard.
    It means so much to all who struggle for justice and equality.
    With loving best wishes, Charles and Christopher

  35. Ben said…

    Joyce, the performance was wonderful: fight ugliness with beauty, that’s the secret. Where others bring hate, you bring pleasure – and I know which I prefer.

    And congrats to Alsop for being the first woman to helm the Last Night of the Proms – magnificent.

  36. Lloyd L. Thoms Jr. said…

    Dear Joyce. Your humanity and humility inspire all who learn of your beliefs. Thank you for your dedication and your voice. Best wishes.

  37. Liz Nielsen said…

    Thank you, Joyce on behalf of my daughter and her partner and their two beautiful children!

  38. Suzanne said…

    Brava! Thank you so much for not being afraid to speak out.

  39. Jan Cantwell said…

    Joyce as a Wife Mother and Grandmother I applaud you

  40. Bernt von Ohlen said…

    Joyce, my partner and I just watched a video of your performance of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” at yesterday’s Proms. We’ve been together for 12 years and got married on Friday. Thank you for singing for us and for all those who dream! You have brought us great joy.

  41. Heidi-Rose Calandra said…

    Thank You for speaking out. my life has been ruined by other peoples prejudice. I’m 38 and resigning myself to the fact that I will probably never work again (due to depression caused by people who thought they could “cure” me of being gay).

    I am a music graduate, but after an awful experience with a singing teacher, I haven’t sung solo since. Your performance and dedication gave me a real boost. I’m going to enrol on a singing course and try to get my confidence back.

    Thank you for giving a voice to those who can’t have one. xx

  42. Brian Hotchkiss said…

    That’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it: using your voice in more ways than one to help set things right. Many times recordings of your voice have provided me personally assistance of one kind or another. But your Proms dedication has the potential to help thousands upon thousands of people beset by the ignorance and hatred so endemic to so much of humankind. Brava!!! and Thank You (for everything)!

  43. Zep Zeep said…

    Thank you so much, you’re amazing.
    A Kiss from Seville
    Luis González

  44. AnnaT said…

    Thank you so much. I sometimes wish I’d been born later so I could (maybe) have avoided some of the desperation and despair I felt as a young gay girl. And I could have known I had allies like you! You’re a rock star. Thanks again.

  45. Cristina G.N said…

    Hola Joyce

    Tu arte hace sentir con intensidad y emoción las obras musicales con las cuales nos alegras la vida día a día.Como ser humano tu corazón es tan grande que hace empequeñecer la crueldad de otros seres no tan ¨humanos¨ los cuales desprecian aquello que no comprenden o creen que no es ¨normal¨ persiguiendo,despreciando e ignorando la vida de otras personas sin mirar su propia conciencia…
    Gracias por tu ilusión, alegría y apoyo.

    Un abrazo muy fuerte!

    Cristina,

  46. Buzz Laquidara said…

    Joyce..Re 5 September post..Mezzo assoluta,supreme actor and humanist,great communicator,and also the possesser of a ton of guts. Regards and Respect to a Woman of substance…Buzz Laquidara

  47. Sibyl said…

    Thank you. Just thank you; you have an audience, you have reach, and you are unafraid to use it. YAY!

  48. Michael Rallo said…

    I thank you for your contrubution to the cause, but you were the one who was onstage at the Allbert Hall who had the audience, that was your opportunity to really speak out. It may have been uncomfortable for some, but that’s really how change happens.

  49. Carole vidal said…

    From France, thanks for us all, lesbians, gays, discriminated anyones, and you nice straight ones too.

  50. maru said…

    Because you are absolutelly right, because I also have wonderful gay friends… thank you.

  51. T.J. Blasing said…

    Brava!

    — Straight but not narrow.

    By the way, your performance in Maria Stuarda was the best performance I have ever seen.

  52. Dear Joyce Didonato
    I am honored of being a fan of you. In my work l make people to love opera and the art of music theatre. I am deeply moved by your words. I think it is the most fantastic l have experienced in my many years in opera – as a fan and as a teacher. Keep on talking! If you come to Denmark we will love it – come and have a cup of tea!
    Best wishes and good luck with all your singing.PS your Maria Stuart is amazing – choking and very moving. Thank you. Lilo

  53. medyum tavsiye said…

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly
    written!

  54. B said…

    I love you.

  55. sylvain gautier said…

    Hi Joyce!

    I agree completely with your fight againts bigotry of any stripe. But regarding specifically homosexuality I am afraid that we have much worse than Putin, among the very friends of the American Government. You just need to look at this:
    http://journal-neo.org/2014/03/24/us-forsakes-gay-saudi-diplomat-a-story-of-western-hypocrisy/
    and the quoted articles (among them one from the London GUARDIAN)
    Sylvain

  56. Patrick Byrne said…

    A stunning statement. Kudos and bravas! If only the Met had the integrity to chastise the conductor and soprano who are strong Putin supporters. I know I will never set foot in that house as long as Gelb is there and ignores this issue. A complete lack of integrity.

  57. Joyce, this is so inspirational every time I read it. Thank you for so humbly appreciating the “lessons” of your “teachers” – these are amazing words!

  58. TJF said…

    Too bad you are straight! that’s all I have to say ;) jaja

Leave a Comment

Audio Player

Newsletter

Twitter

9 hours ago

RT @CBCclassical: .@JoyceDiDonato is soon to be the first livestreamed singer @carnegiehall! http://t.co/pCke55uyhH http://t.co/ZVbOS8FvCg

9 hours ago

RT @catecool: Vivienne Westwood Dressed an Opera Star http://t.co/wvFVS14mdf via @TheCut @joycedidonato

9 hours ago

RT @medicitv: D-4 before the beginning of our @CarnegieHall #webcasts series! Let's start with @JoyceDiDonato! #MACH http://t.co/5phnpeEcfM

FOLLOW Joyce DiDonato

Instagram

Facebook

Flickr

You are here to serve the words, the director, the melody, the author, the chord progression, the choreographer ~ but above all and most importantly, with every breath, step, and stroke of the keyboard, you are here to serve humanity.

~ Joyce DiDonato