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Dedicating Romeo

Tonight is the opening of “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” here in Zurich. It is a role that I feel and love very deeply, and the opportunity to bring him to life, set to Bellini’s exquisitely well crafted vocal lines, fills me with tremendous gratitude. (I’ve written about my passion for him before.)

It tells the familiar story of Romeo and Juliet: the story we know well, masterfully told by Shakespeare, read aloud in countless sophomore literature classes, endlessly danced to (by yours truly, at least) in Bernstein’s version, retold and remade in numerous cultures and epochs – always breaking our hearts in the end.

Bellini’s version hails from later Italian sources, and as the title indicates, throws the emphasis squarely on the shoulders of these two warring families. This is undeniably an opera about war. Here there is no love duet between the two: they fight in every scene, even in death, never finding peace – even as harmonious thirds in the music ache for them to find each other. After the deaths, the warring families rush the stage and we see how the cycle will inevitably continue.

Why is this on my mind today?

Charleston.

Guns.

Racism.

Inequality.

War.

This is our time. A time of war. (Although as I desperately “fight” to remind myself – it is also a time of immense beauty. Woe are we, if we forget that.)

I felt this way after having to sing “Così fan tutte” 2 days after 9/11 happened: “WHAT IS THE POINT????”, I screamed inside my head. How can an opera over 150 years old possibly matter today?

One point might be this: The Arts are here for us to look unflinchingly, directly, deeply and penetratingly at ourselves. They are here to show us who we really are. They are here, begging us to learn from our past mistakes and shortcomings. They Arts INVITE us to be better: “Choose LOVE this time, not WAR.” The Arts INVITE us to grow and evolve. It is up to us to accept the invitation to advance.

So I ask myself, when will “we” listen? When will we have the courage to look deeply within ourselves: at our own slips into lightly veiled racism? at our own greed for “rights” that come at the cost of HUMAN BEINGS’ LIVES? at our quick judgments of other people, dismissing their heritage, and THEIR rights?

I stare at Facebook and see my friends from many different walks of life, all confused with questions of “how could this happen?” and “when will it stop?” I think, as Americans, as long as we continue to allow the INSANE proliferation of guns through our laws and via the people we elect, we have categorically lost our right to be outraged. We have lost our right to be shocked. We actually need to look directly at ourselves and admit that we are allowing this – and by default, we are implicitly accepting it.

We are culpable in Charleston.

I am doing soul searching to find ways in which I might be complicit by my own actions or inaction. There are numerous articles around helping to compassionately point out how I – born into a white middle class world, with no understanding of what an African American growing up underneath a a waving Confederate Flag might be experiencing – might be able to help affect change.

Where I have been guilty of such things, I ask for forgiveness.

I have signed petitions and have written letters to the powers-that-be to be sure that my voice is being heard clearly.

I will no longer shy away from speaking the truth when I hear someone calling this latest attack an attack on faith, or the result of a mad man. Or someone waxing on about their unalienable right to open carry a weapon that they need no permit for. I can no longer be a party to insanity.

I will petition for radical gun law changes in The United States of America.

And, even if it is the most futile of things, I dedicate my run of performances as Romeo here in Zurich to my fellow human beings who have had to suffer the continued effects of rampant racism in my Country; to the mothers who have to explain to their beautiful young sons, that because their skin is dark, they must expect to be targeted and therefore must constantly be on the defense; to the utterly misguided, ill-educated, lost and fearful people who thing eradication is a solution; to the devastated, grieving families of the 9 human beings slaughtered in their place of worship, who, within HOURS of losing their loved ones, stood in front of the world and the person who murdered their family members and taught us what love is by simply saying “We forgive you”.

It is a mad, mad, mad world. Sometimes music seems to be the only thing that makes sense to me. Even if it may be futile, I choose to use that music for good, and hope that, miraculously, it may just shift the energy of the madness into more empathy, kindness, and dignified humanity.

As the turntable spins tonight, littered with corpses and enemies, my hope and intention will be one of peace.

61 Comments

  1. Heather Crompton said…

    p
    Profound statement…well done…and so very painfully true. Thank you Joyce.

  2. Jean Taylor said…

    Thank you for sharing your words and feelings. Music has always been there for me, and I turn to it again as I try to understand and act to better the state of our society and nation…

  3. Jack said…

    Brava Joyce, the mass murders with youths with guns, screams for gun control. This country must wake up to this realty and take action. H for Pres!,

  4. WEBER NIcolas/Luxembourg/ said…

    Dear Joyce I am so much with you in that you write here…but I can not see right now how this MADNESS can be stoped..It just saddens me very very much..Getting older I just can notice that some things NEVER change…..Humanity will just not learn…BUT thanks for what you heve been writing here it comes from the heart…And nevertheless good luck for your Romewo a beautiful role for you…I would love to be there in Zürich,if only for your singing…But Christoph Loy NO THANKS I would have close my eyes during the whole opera and I do not see that poinr…I will be in Paris for the concert Werther that is already booked….And thanks for your new album…Hugs and toi toi toi…

  5. Ann Daane said…

    Thank you.
    You are wonderful.

  6. Thelma E June Rodgers (June) said…

    My heavy heart grows lighter as I read your message of hope and support. Since the age of 15, I have been fighting for equality, inclusion and understanding –simply an equal opportunity for myself and all African-Americans to just be — still at it 62 years and counting. Your voice being added is a blessing — whether singing, blogging or speaking. Brava Ms.Didonato. Thank you.

  7. Jeff said…

    A sensitive and compelling commentary on the tragic events in Charleston. As a fan of yours and opera in general, I’m so thrilled when performers from any medium help us glean from art the joys and responsibilities of being HUMAN. Brava.

  8. Jeff Allbon said…

    thank you for these words and your support in changing the gun laws of your country. Best Wishes with Romeo and Juliet!

  9. Leslie said…

    Thank you for your cogent and lucid and important post. So well said at a time when we are feeling so helpless and useless.

    I shall share your letter with all my friends by facebook and by snail mail, if I may, You have set what do many of us think and cannot put so well. Thank you.

  10. Amy Zimmerman said…

    We humans are a work in progress, capable of great beauty and unspeakable horrors. I fear we will run out of time, destroying each other and our planet before evolving into the wiser beings we could become. But please remember that what you and other music makers do with your great talents and heart inspires hope. A child hearing your Romeo may decide, “I want to sing that way, too!” As for your agenda against institutional cruelty, amen! We can’t legislate feelings, but we sure can legislate actions.

  11. Rosemary Hoffman said…

    I was listening to the Romeo track on “Stella di Napoli” just yesterday and your music provides a refuge from the insanity and hate so that we can gather energy to go on fighting it.

    Thank you for speaking out and for sharing your voice with us.

  12. Elizabeth Geehan said…

    I agree with everything you just said and admire you for saying it. My heart goes out to my American friends in this time of pain and self-reflection.

    My perspective may be a little different because I am Canadian and live in Canada but we too need to strive for a kinder gentler society. Although Canadians do not carry guns in the numbers Americans do violent senseless shootings still occur. We too have far too many people in prisons for non-violent crimes – the vast majority of these people are First Nations so there is both a racial and class inequality here. Carding is also a big issue here.

    I also agree with you about the importance of the arts and despair that the teaching of arts and humanities is so undervalued now. Our children get so little exposure. I don’t think all is lost however. I myself always appreciated classical instrumental music but it wasn’t until the third season of the Met HD Live productions that I first attended and fell in love with opera – at 58 years of age. Similarly for art history. I don’t think most people even recognize the economic benefits of supporting the arts but think nothing of the use of public money for professional sports.

    I cannot resist telling you that you are my favorite opera singer on the current stage. I first saw you in Barber of Seville, heard you on the radio discussing your album “Colbran the Muse”, went out and bought it (and several since) and have to say that your “Maria Stuarda” performance is one of my all time favorite opera experiences.

    I live in Ottawa and would love for you to come here to perform at our National Arts Centre. Perhaps one day….

    All the best to you.

    Elizabeth Geehan

  13. Rachel Cooper said…

    Dear Joyce:

    Thank you for demonstrating that there is no excuse for any of us, we all need to be PROACTIVE as this becomes a growing concern in our country….

    You are, as always, an inspiration.

    I kne that the energy and fight you have in you will make your performances of Romeo even more powerful.

    Thanks again for all you do!

    Rachel

  14. Bob and Heidi Moore said…

    We have always loved and respected you as a performer and a teacher. Now, even more, as a compassionte and caring human being. May you and we all thrive to continue to contribute and enjoy the arts as a counterpoint to this troubled world. Keep up the good fight Joyce. We’re behind you one hundred percent.

  15. Christopher Wilson said…

    Amazing. Thank you, Joyce, for this heartfelt and motivating message. I’m a high school art history teacher, and your words help me to articulate to students why art is important, including in a time of crisis. I’m right there with you.
    With gratitude for your artistry and for the example that you set for all of us,
    Christopher

  16. Hailey McAvoy said…

    Thank you, Joyce, for being an artist with a real presence. Your voice sings out in more ways than one, encouraging us training in the arts to sing out and speak out. Many thanks, and much love.

  17. betsy smith said…

    Thank you, Joyce DiDonato, for your heartfelt and very welcome statement. I am particularly pleased that you made it in Zurich, and hopefully, Americans will learn that their hideous racial convictions are becoming known around the world. Here, we are wearing our index fingers out on internet petitions to little effect and the more publicity these recurring atrocities are reported will hopefully bring awareness to more and more people. It is hard to be in America now.

  18. Lina Plantilla said…

    As always, Brava Joyce. Your prose is so inspired. Know that you reach my heart and soul not just with your voice but also your writing.

  19. Ray Veysey said…

    Joyce , I love you dearly but you must think carefully about this misconception that only white people can be racist. 94% of Blacks killed are killed by Blacks, there is almost no coverage of the equally horrendous Black on White incidents that take place everyday. Racism is a very clear 2 way road, not a simple matter at all, taking sides will not help.

    • Yankeediva said…

      Dear Ray,

      Please believe me, I’ve thought very carefully about every thought expressed here. I am not assigning any specific race to the idea of my disdain for racism. I am striving for understanding and equality and EMPATHY across all genders/races/political leanings/continents/you-name-it. I am taking the side of humanity – and that side demands that I see the inequality that is rampant in my country.

  20. Candace Allen said…

    Thank you, Joyce, for taking a stand and vowing to do something. I know that you will and persuade others as you do so. Step by step, word by word, note by note with eyes firmly fixed on the prize.

  21. GN said…

    Beautiful article, but Joyce…. please fix the following grammatical error:

    ” (by your’s truly, at least) ”

    It’s “yours”, not “your’s”.

  22. Linda Hardwick said…

    From the moment I heard Ms. DiDonato speak at a Met broadcast, and before I even heard her sing, I knew that this was an extraordinary woman. She has proved me right so many times. This is just the latest glimpse into her beautiful soul. May God continue to bless her.

  23. Dear Joyce, I echo your sentiments. I cannot begin to understand American gun laws. Here in England it is against the law to even go out on the street with a folded penknife…. but the figures speak for themselves and it seems to work. I feel so much for everyone involved in those dreadful murders in Charleston and may God bless you for writing so sensitively about such terrible atrocities – William xx

  24. Shannon said…

    Thank you for making this statement, Joyce. I think that silence is the same as acceptance which inturn feeds the vein of hate, fear, ignorance and violence that permeates our country. The more we as individuals refuse to feed it by acknowledging truth and speaking up, the more our collective conscience will shift to support a society that is built on the most important and yet often over looked rule: love your neighbor as yourself.

  25. Jo Lyday said…

    Joyce, I admire you so much, not only for your incredible art, but also for your loving and generous heart combined with the courage to speak out when the need arises. You are a herine to me.

  26. LARZ Pearson said…

    Thanks for the courage to speak truth

  27. Cheryl said…

    Thank you. I am continuously shocked to see, again and again, the cold shoulder turned toward those who are the object of racism by those who refuse to stand up.

  28. Geoff said…

    Joyce: passionately, painfully and beautifully eloquent, thank you. Every American should hear you.

  29. John Locke said…

    A Congressional Research Service report published in 2013 counted 78 mass-shooting incidents over a thirty-year period in which 547 people were killed.

    In other words, on average, 20 people a year die in mass shootings.

    According to DOJ crime statistics (GunFacts.info) 2.5 million people use guns each year to thwart violent crimes like rape, robbery, carjacking and home-invasion, 99% of the time without a shot being fired.

    A lot more than 20 of those 2.5 million people will wind up being murder victims if you deny them the most effective tool for self-defense.

    The statistical sleight-of-hand gun-haters like to use is that places with high gun ownership rates have more “gun deaths.”

    What they won’t tell you is that those places have the lowest per capita murder rates.

    More guns, less murder.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pELwCqz2JfE

    Fact is, states and countries with low gun ownership rates lead the nation and world in per capita murder rate.

    They also lead the world in violent crime rate.

    Gun-controlled Britain has a low homicide rate, but it has the highest violent crime rate in the EU, a violent crime rate that is higher than even South Africa, and much higher than the United States.

    The only first-world nation with a higher violent crime rate than Britain is Australia, a nation that also banned and confiscated firearms, stripping its people of their ability to defend themselves from violent criminals.

    So if you like high violent crime and murder rates, by all means advocate taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.

    • Edgar Brenninkmeyer said…

      Dear John Locke, with all due respect, I disagree with every word you have posted here. Of course, you are entitled to freely express your view, as I have mine, and as Joyce has done so eloquently and passionately, for obvious reasons.

      Joyce, thank you for speaking out so passionately. Our wounded world needs music. Lots of it. Everywhere. At all times. The curtain has come down in Zurich at the time I write this. Thank you for sharing your great artistic gifts and wisdom. ToiToiToi!

      Back to you, John Locke, again with all due respect: What I miss in your post, and this is why it makes it even more disagreeable and disturbing to me, is that there is the complete absence of any compunction of heart and feeling for those murdered in Charleston, and so many places elsewhere (like Detroit and Philadelphia this weekend, where people were shot while at a children’s birthday party and a picnic, respectively. Apparently, a child’s birthday party, a picnic, a Bible study – they are safe no longer).

      Tens of thousands of deaths do happen in the US each year, related to guns. Yet still there is no acknowledgement of the fact that, of these tens of thousands, many are murdered because the color of their skin or their ethnicity. It is racist terrorism, but the national media prefer to hush up the inevitable, inconvenient reality: instead of calling racist terrorism by its real name, they speak of a “deranged” or “disturbed” individual, a “lone wolf”. Which only serves the interests of those who make a profits from selling more and more guns, abetted in their doings not only by the NRA but also by the politicians who fail to enact gun restrictions, and therefore us who elect these politicians (as any candidate who is outspoken against guns will be character assassinated by the NRA.

      Frankly, John Locke, from one law abiding citizen to the other: I find your post here appalling. You could have posted it elsewhere, but not here. Yet you did.

      I take the liberty to freely express my response to you, again as one law abiding citizen to the other, with a well known quote from American rhetoric history:

      “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

    • Yankeediva said…

      We get our facts from very different sources.

      • Edgar Brenninkmeyer said…

        That is indeed so, Yankeediva. The American people will never see eye to eye on guns.

        The gun is too deeply ingrained in the American culture to successfully take any action to even apply the most modest restrictions on its use.

        I go to Starbucks and ask for a “short latte, two infusions” – the reaction is always a look of “what? I don’t understand”. I then explain that I prefer to keep guns out of my language, hence never ask for “shots”. With one exception, all barristas then nodded and understood: “I never though of it that way.”

        A colleague says “I’ll shoot you an email”, and I reply: “It’s enough to send it, you don’t have to shoot me”. I am all for kids everywhere having a fair chance at succeeding in life, rather than a “fair shot”. I likewise prefer to give it a try, rather than to “give it a shot”.

        Call me nuts or a looney-anti-gun-lefty liberal (which I am, but at least I assume both of us love opera, and especially Joyce singing in one!). What I mean to say is that, as philospher Martin Heidegger once said, “language is the abode of our being”.

        So, yes, I do think Americans need to have a long and hard look at themselves and their history, which includes slavery, including, prominently, in places like Charleston Harbor.

  30. Ian Clarke said…

    Dear Joyce,

    Thank you for your inspiring blog. The world is going through a massive change right now, this causes instability in some people, hence mass murders etc. Gun control is only a part of the answer, we need self control more! Thank you for bringing to the world your gift of music, for music is the only universal language. The more joy and love you find in your heart, the more that will be projected out into the world thru the medium of your voice. I’m somewhat clairvoyant and have often seen where the energy of beautiful music is taken. In one instance, Bach for flute & harpsichord, the energy was being taken right across the road to a hospital. Keep doing what you do best, Joyce. You are making a difference. Blessings to you…..

  31. Barbara Collier said…

    Joyce,

    Thank you so much for your insightful and heartfelt comments on the horrific occurrence in Charleston. I am a Canadian, a retired opera singer, and I firmly believe that so much can be achieved to defeat racism and to promote world peace through the arts. You are a wonderful artist and your message is very inspirational. Would that our political leaders had so much insight. Blessings!

  32. david cyprium said…

    California to my knowledge has the strongest(harshest) gun laws in the nation.
    Texas has the most relaxed or close to that in the nation.
    Yet the death rate by guns is the same in both per thousand or per ten thousand.
    Gun laws in and of themselves are not enough, getting people to being willing to hear, listen and understand another side and not react violently is where to perhaps start. Until discussions can be peaceably held by all sides the violence will continue. Sigh, Alas, and it is not the means of destruction that counts nearly so much as the mind that holds the means.
    How we develop a means of peaceful communication is still to be figured out.
    As Kissinger asked Chou En-Lai what he thought of Western Civilization, Chou responded it would be a good idea. We have far to go. Guns are not the answer we need to find out what the question is to begin the discussion that can answer what will stop the violence.

  33. Courtney Pourciaux said…

    As a voice major and aspiring opera singer in Charleston, I just wanted to say thank you so much for the kind sentiment! It really means a lot to me personally that you care enough about this event and the people of my city that you would dedicate something you have worked so hard to achieve to the memory of the people we have lost and that you are making a public declaration of peace. You’re the best!

  34. LiverLips (not a singer) said…

    Dear Joyce: Thank you for (under the present circumstances) what can only be considered your courageous remarks. Since 9/11, the US has suffered 215,000 deaths due to guns. The modern right to own and carry guns is put forward as the hallmark of independence and freedom, under the rubric of “States’ Rights”. But, not long after this phrase was introduced into the philosophical and political discourse of the Founding Fathers, it became “shorthand” for political, economic, and social racism, and clearly still does so today. The facts of this egregious development need not be recounted here, except to say that a society that cannot exist without the subjugation of an entire group has overwhelmingly much to excuse within itself. Joyce, you have often and eloquently said that the arts are a safe way for us to hold up a mirror to ourselves, and that no form does this as comprehensively as opera. You have sensitively invoked this special sense in the case of the warring houses of Capulet and Montague, and the senseless deaths due to blindness and intransigence. Truly, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

  35. Heidi Herrmann ( friend of Richard Stilwell and Bernice Lindstrom) said…

    Your comments are so true and will hopefully make all of think and do more to eliminate some of the problems we all face! As a grandmother I constantly fear for my children and grandchildren ! They are not safe even in school!
    I so commend you for speaking up for those who can’t,and being so famous it hopefully will get attention ! Let me just say: when 9/11 happened the first thing we did is to listen music one way to help ease the sadness ! Wonderful singers like you give us so much joy and are balsam to the soul. I thank you for the joy you give us with your wonderful talent. I am not giving up hope……change in gun control MUST come and maybe we learn to respect one another where color of skin will not matter ! 🙂

  36. Robin Addis-Vaughn said…

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write about this subject matter. I live in SC, about 6 hours from Charleston, a beautiful city with a horrendously ugly history. The pedestals that the slaves were made to stand upon, the huge loop to which they were chained, are all still there to be seen. The first time I saw them, I had to rush to the rail and be sick, because of the thoughts running through my head at what those beautiful people endured, they built this country, they have generously created art forms we might never have known, especially the blues. I’ve long been a proponent of removing the confederate flag,its not appropriate but it’s not even SC’s flag. All Confederate states had individual flags, the one everyone is familiar with is North Virginia’s Artillery Battalion. I’ve also been a fighter that arts should remain a focal point in schools but it appears Congress would rather fund another battleship that is not needed than to give these kids options. All of us can’t play football, basketball or any sport; all of us can’t sing or play an instrument; all of us can’t paint, or create sculptures or write about what they feel. But, we can all TRY to do it. Give children a chance to choose between sports, different types of art, other ways if expressing themselves, other wsys out of the neighborhoods that many are trapped in and you’ll see gangs beginning to lose power not gain it, drugs will not help you achieve a scholarship in ballet. Drugs will do nothing but trap you. Arts must stay in the schools and they must stay adequately funded. I’m not an artistic person, I couldn’t carry a note in a bucket, but occasionally I can string sentences together that may or may not touch someone’s heart. And, today I’m not trying to, I’m trying to release the pain I carry. I called my best friend, who happens to be black, crying, almost hysterical. She thought something had happened to a family member and I just wanted to apologize to her because I once had a flag, a confederate flag. I said I didn’t understand what it meant. To us, it was about Southern rock and drinking beer. Nothing more, nothing less, but to think of the pain that she has endured because of it, broke me in half. She managed to calm me, she said you were a child. You couldn’t grasp the debts of pain that flag symbolizes, she said but you are different, you grasped the pain, you learned and you owe me no apology. This state is not filled with people of hate, but there is that quiet racism which is even worse.Those ignorant of its existence, certainly saw it come out of the closet in 2008 with our first African-American president. Definitely,he is in the top 10 of best presidents ever, maybe even higher. Michael Jackson spoke and sung so many times of healing the world. I suggest we take his advice. The one medium that crosses all peoples, nations, countries and continents is music. Perhaps a worldwide tour of some of the greatest musicians, from all musical genres, might help us to have open discussions with people who look differently than we do, who live differently than we do and, in so doing, begin to Heal the World and truly make it a better place for the entire human race, heal the world for the children.I realize that similar concerts have been conducted but on a smaller scale. I would love to see everything from opera to Metallica.It may need to be a several day kind of event to incorporate as many acts and genres that wish to participate. But if we can send people to the moon, contemplate sending people to Mars, surely great minds could conceive of a way for this to be possible. I apologize for grammatical errors or misspelling, its hard to see through the tears. Thank you again for your time.

  37. Kalil said…

    I’m neither from the USA nor i’ve ever been there, but it seems to me, in this matter of racism and intolerance, that it’s all about a group of people that believes that his “culture” is better than that of the others and everybody muss walk right on this line. And this kind of thought thousand years after the arrival of the first pilgrims in North America. And what about the domination of pop culture by african-americans, what about Obama? What was that for? That’s what i ask myself. A matter of image? Just to show the others that tolerance finally showed up? I guess the facts speak for themselves, there’s nothing more to hide. As you say, Joyce, everybody is unique, and the world needs EVERYBODY. Therefore, i guess people should stop thinking there’s just you in the world and nobody else matters. That would be a REALLY great start 😉

  38. Roy Wood said…

    To play devil’s advocate ( literally ) … where are the guns in Romeo & Juliet? Perhaps it would be more apropos to dedicate R&J for radical sword/sabre/rapier et al contol laws. [ Don’t flame me – I didn’t say I didn’t agree with all DiDonato said… ]

  39. Marguerite Foxon said…

    Food for thought indeed. We have much daily coverage of this in Australia on national radio and TV. We too have our own racial problems, expressed in some different ways, but we also need to take a long hard look at racial inequality in our own backyard. Having lived 22 years in the US I feel very pained by what happened in Charleston. There are so many signs of changing attitudes but there are also awful events as this one to remind us of the work to be done. i was deeply moved by I Capuletti when I saw you in it in San Fran. How significant you are singing the role at this time.

  40. LiverLips (not a singer) said…

    The remark about Western civilization being “a good idea” is attributed to the Dalai Lama. The source is irrelevant; a good idea is always said to have many parents. What must happen is the realization of that good idea. As Joyce says, examine your heart.

  41. Jim Jandt said…

    Thank you, Joyce, for adding your voice and heart to still the racism I’m our midst. Fear of the unknown is key to the perpetuation of racism. They are different – I will fear them. And, since anger is more acceptable to show than fear, I will be angry with them. And if I fear them enough, I will do them harm possibly unto death. Racism in any form is unacceptable. Unfortunately it’s a very human trait and foible. We must not give in to it. Each of us has the choice to further the perpetuation of racism or to attempt to still its rancorous voice. I choose to still the voice of racism.

  42. Olga Bourlin said…

    Forgiveness? Bad idea.

    “… I wonder then if there is no other language beyond the discourse of forgiveness. Given that forgiveness has not produced the results of reconciliation that were expected of it, in South Africa and the United States, we should perhaps consider giving accountability a chance in the fight against racism. Making accountability only the work of the courts is a form of self-absolution that leaves attitudes unchanged, until they blow up like they did in that church house in Charleston.”

    http://www.theroot.com/articles/news/2015/06/a_south_african_calls_for_accountability_not_forgiveness_in_charleston.html

    • Yankeediva said…

      This is a very thought-provoking argument, Olga. When I was in Rwanda over a year ago during the 20th Anniv. of the genocide, the progress that country has made had a huge impact on me. They granted forgiveness to the men who committed the atrocities – but ONLY if they expressed true remorse. If they did, then total forgiveness was granted, and it is those profound gestures (both of the asking, and of the giving of forgiveness) that has healed that country in a very short 20 years. But to the point – they had to express true remorse and ASK for forgiveness. Those who haven’t are still in prison. Thank you for sharing the article ~ so much to ponder in this topic.

  43. Ariadne Sophia auf Naxos said…

    Oh, dear Joyce – How indeed heart breaking to perform a role of Romeo in such a time, where the mad world of opera is no longer an allegorical parallel world to the 21st century reality we reside. Wars, hate, conflicts, betrayal, murders.. On stage, at least, the beautiful music works the magic of catharsis even with a tragic end, while in reality, the madness goes on and on, without ever showing the sign of stopping soon. Am starting to wonder whether we are left with operas only as a soul’s consolation, tranquilizer, hallucinogen to alleviate pains of living in such a cruel world, to keep us from collapsing with insanity.

    I hope not. Somehow, genuine music, the art, should be able to touch the minds of everybody, to release them from dark obsessions, be they racial/religious fundamentalists, power mongers, profit seekers who keep producing weapons, politicians who keep setting off wars for their hidden agenda. Only the real art with the highest spiritual quality could do this, and it is very rare that such a real art is generously shared across geographical space and socio-economical barrier. But, what you are doing, trying to break through those limitations, trying to bring your art and prayers to every corners of the depressed world against various invisible walls is already very much appreciated.

    I don’t think petitions and new laws can bring a real solution. The minds and wills of the people at large must change for a better for a changed world. Please help bring such world, because you are in the right spot, with the right courage and the gift of the heaven. Thank you for doing that for all of us, Joyce! Thank you for your courage and vision. Sophi

  44. Sarah Salter said…

    Well – said.

  45. Judith said…

    Thank you Joyce for speaking out so movingly in relation to the injustices and insane situations in our world. Although some problems seem insurmountable I do think that great leaders can bring about cultural change. Those that have honesty, integrity, an understanding of the human condition, a keen intellect and great communicators who can take people with them … reminds me of someone :). Thank you too for your beautiful, beautiful singing.

    Judith, London.

  46. Evan Gamsu said…

    Heartfelt sentiments beautifully expressed. And if you’re ready for a brief hiatus from opera, Kansas could sure use a Governor asap.

  47. Pati said…

    Joyce, big grin here just thinking of you. Grin and gratitude.

    I have a “thing” about the mental illness factor here. It perked up its head when I read this in your wonderful piece…

    “I will no longer shy away from speaking the truth when I hear someone calling this latest attack an attack on faith, or the result of a mad man. ”

    I am so saddened so many people are making this either/or.

    I have lived most of my life a stone throw away from someone that is a poster child for Cluster B mental illness. Sociopath, psychopath, Borderline, a happy combo.

    I have seen first hand how deep and dangerous this group of disorders can be.

    My wasband, for example, many think still is just one of the sweetest men on earth. He tried to kill me.

    It’s dangerous. This guy, the signs were so there and were ignored. He wasn’t hiding much, I bet. Not exactly a poster child for being able to compensate.

    It isn’t either/or. They feed each other. This prejudice is like chocolate to a Cluster B. It helps them make sense to the hatred they already carry. They have a direction for it.

    I totally agree, and love all the people standing up and saying “Enough!!!”

    But, it’s not either/or. It’s a lethal combo, and it all needs to be addressed.

    Our society isn’t educated enough on the warning signs and symptoms of this disorder. In my personal seeking, I have heard so many heart breaking stories of parents having to hand their children over to someone who raped them, tried to kill them, and the system just doesn’t understand that a looking good person could do that when the doors are closed.

    This person was not looking good. It’s ridiculous he wasn’t pulled out of circulation before this.

    But, yes, we have to stop mass producing this climate that feeds these monsters.

    LOVE YOU AND AL You ARE!!!

    Pati

  48. LiverLips (not a singer) said…

    Today (Tuesday), Pope Francis I declared that those who promote or profit from the manufacture of guns are not Christians. Here is the link:

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/christian-weaponsmaker-pope-says-no-145500825.html

  49. Elizabeth said…

    Dear Joyce,

    What you expressed really resonated with me deeply.

    Regarding complicity, when you mentioned that I began thinking of how just today I bit my tongue and didn’t say anything when someone around me made a comment of boredom or disgust along the lines of the news media “still being stuck on that Charleston thing.” I felt angry and wanted to say that the event needed even greater attention, to ask the person how she thought it would feel to spend a lifetime living under a flag that was used as the rallying symbol of the subjugation of her people (as you mentioned as well). How can another human being have so little imagination, so little ability to try to think how things would be or feel in someone else’s shoes and skin? But I said none of this, just to supposedly keep the verbal peace.

    But that did not feel right deep inside, and I don’t want to keep doing that. I went to law school to become a child advocate attorney and have been one for about a decade in Philadelphia for abused and neglected children, and reading your post made me remember that I pursued this path to help give voice to the powerless. I want to carry that through in all aspects of my life and not lose any of that passion I went to law school with in my early 20s now as I approach my late 30s.

    You have inspired me for so long, and I was blown away when I first got to hear you perform in person at Princeton this February, singing the song cycle of an artist who lost so much of her power when she was locked away. I was struck by how you inhabit your roles and give these characters voices. I have tried to do something similar for children and have often imagined giving voices to people the way you have instead, as opera performance was the road not taken for me.

    On and off-stage, your voice is a powerful and beautiful vehicle. Thank you for reminding me how powerful the human voice can be, how I must always use it to help others who are voiceless for various reasons. And I deeply hope that I have the privilege of hearing your voice again sometime soon in the Philadelphia area.

  50. Dagmar Neblung said…

    @John Locke

    More guns, less murder, you wrote.
    From my European point of view (I’m living in Berlin, Germany), this statement is simply incomprehensible. We are living relatively surely in Western Europe, the vast majority of us without guns (Thanks heaven!) and even without missing them.
    Great Britain has very severe gun controll laws and a high violent crime rate in Europe:
    – Should’nt you cancel London next year, Miss DiDonato 😉 –
    it has the greatest reduction of violent crimes in Europe in the last five years also, but on a high level, yet. Many other European countries have similar laws and a much lower violent crime rate, many of them tightened their laws of gun controll in the last years (usually after mass-shootings) and the violent crime rates decrease year for year in many of these countries – both facts are showing, that it’s just more complicated, there is never only one reason for (violent) crimes.
    Living in a city like Berlin (and cities have the highest criminal rates everywhere) – did I ever think: Oh, I should have a gun? Never ever, I don’t need one, although I’m not a very tall woman and don’t have had any self-defence training. Police in Germany advises women against having irritated gas with them for self defence. Why? They know that probably the offender will use it against the victim, because he is much more prone to violence. So, should all the possible victims practice their aggressiveness, their violence, to be prepared? I personally don’t wanna live in such a society of allowed violence and permanent suspicion.
    From time to time, we have amok-runnings in Germany, too. Not very often, but each one ist one too much, of course, and we have the highest number in Europe, unfortunately. Do you want to know, what most of the offenders have in common except mental illness? Right, easy access to firearms.
    More guns, more deads? Yes!
    Less guns, less violence? Yes, for sure!
    I know, we have different traditions in Europe, no second amendment. But traditions have to be changed, when they’re no longer needed. Changing and developping is a necessary part of the survival and success of the human race.
    More guns, less humanity!
    No guns for private individuals, more humanity, more education, more respect for other persons!

  51. Ulla Tarras-Wahlberg said…

    Dear Joyce – just back from Zürich – and thank you warmly for your Romeo! Yours – and Bellini’s – is the best possible. – – Now, having read your wise, moving, eloquent thoughts about Charleston, I feel such gratitude for your sensitive, personal commitment to this serious cause. We should all join together to make our voices heard – even those of us who are not voting in the US. The rest of the world has so many similar, acute problems. As a European, I shall try to contribute with what I can do – The real enemy is doing nothing.
    Thank you – your thoughts were so well put. Amazing Grace. – Bless you.

  52. mary lundin said…

    Yes!!!!! Right on target!!! You go girl!! Love it!

  53. Sarah said…

    Thank you Joyce. Your’s is a voice for hope and good.

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