Into the blind night

I’m exhausted. Spent. And oh yes, does it feel GOOD! Today was a rather brutal day in terms of recording: 3 arias were planned, and that’s a lot for a single day, believe it or not. What results in 7 minutes of music on a disc likely takes 90 minutes of full-on singing to complete the picture. Normally we will invest in one full take of the piece, listen to the results (debating tempi, colors, ensemble, dynamics, etc), and then the real work begins, usually attacking one segment at a time, involving numerous repeats until the ideal result of musical perfection and high emotional impact show themselves in perfect unison! That’s not a lot to ask, is it??? We’re only trying to get perfect intonation from every single orchestra member, as well as from the singer, perfect unison between all the musicians – at the same time! – and on top of all the technical aspects, we’re trying to create ART! Trying to find a genuine emotion that will transmit over loud speakers or headphones that actually MOVES the listener without the aid of costumes or theatrics is a very high challenge. We need to ignite your imagination so that you can enter into our story and travel along an emotional journey. And we get about 90 minutes to make that magic happen!

As I wrote yesterday, it truly is more of a sprint than a marathon, although after 90 minutes of “Scherza infida-ing”, I certainly feel as if I’ve run a marathon!!

“Qui d’amor al suo linguaggio”

This is Ariodante’s entrance arietta, and introduces us into a tranquil, simple place where a certain utopia seems to be on hand. Happily, it endures all of Act 1, until chaos naturally ensues as the curtain rises on Act 2. The trick, I think, is to honor his “larghetto” marking (which is always up for debate – too much “largo” and it drags, to much “ghetto” and it doesn’t quite feel languid or romantic enough!) But I think the key comes in the decision to not give into the melancholy of the poetry (“the rivers are speaking the language of love…”), and to concentrate on a fresh quality that is still somehow vibrant and alive – not too self-indulgent. (Which, by the way is very hard for me to avoid – I LOVE indulging a great larghetto!) But after the drama of recording some of the later arias, it was wonderful to come back to the beginning – the calm before the storm, so to speak – and get Ariodante’s footing firmly on the ground as he begins his journey. The surer his standing is, the farther the fall – and isn’t that what we come to the theater for?

(On hand at the cembalo, once again, is the brilliant-as-ever Andrea Perugi. He has been on all my recordings with Alan Curtis, and due to his fine Tuscan background, is the go-to-guy for all things Italian. He points out when my “o’s” are too closed, or “i’s” not closed enough. He also has the greatest face on the planet. It always seems to emit a bit of sunshine, so even here in foggy Lunigo, he is a breath of fresh air.)

“Scherza infida”

Ah. The monster. The monument. The untouchable! This aria has such a hallowed air about it, that it falls into the category for me of “white glove treatment ONLY!” Don’t dare take it down off the shelf unless you’re wearing white gloves and close all the curtains! It’s one of THOSE arias! And yet, I somehow have to roll up my sleeves and make it my own. I have to dare to sing those famous phrases and find a way to make it mine. I had the luxury of recording the aria on its own for my “Furore” disc, and that was one experience. This is another – another conductor, another band, another venue, and certainly I am a different kind of artist, with nearly 2 years having passed since I last recorded it. I was curious to see how it might have morphed along the way.

Well, I hesitate to divulge too much, and certainly, MY experience of what I put into the recording will be very different from the listener’s experience of hearing it. But I can say that I felt quite a lot more “raw” this time, perhaps (dare I say!) a bit more violent with the utterances of disdain and indignation and threat towards Ginevra. I suppose having recorded nearly the whole opera now, the poison I felt creeping in during “Tu, preparati a morire” certainly bore a different kind of fruit in this rendition. Ariodante has just been primed by Polinesso to be jealous and agitated, and all it took was a tiny, brief glimpse of a veiled figure in the dark for him to assume that Ginevra has been unfaithful. Could it be possible that without Polinesso’s influence, seeing the same thing, Ariodante could have laughed it off, knowing for certain Ginevra would never betray him? Did it really only take a small bit of sly insinuation? And yet, when he crosses the line, he crosses completely.

Being so immersed in the role in these days, I wasn’t too seduced by the beauty of the aria (oh, how Handel tears my heart out with his beauty!), but I stayed deep in the text, trying diligently not to give into self-pity, and instead looking to heave the guilt onto Ginevra. The text is relentless in its condemnation of her, and I tried to stay with that more than I had done previously. I think, also, that Alan hears the orchestra as quite mocking and derisive, and not necessarily always beautiful. I found it very interesting to get into the mindset that Ariodante’s pain is so very great in this moment, that he can’t dare to let himself FEEL it too much – instead he needs to transfer it all onto the one he loved most in the world. He simply cannot bare to carry the burden himself.

Which makes the realization that he was completely wrong all the more tragic, bringing us to:

“Cieca Notte”

I might have mentioned that I find this to be the most important of Ariodante’s arias. Now granted, when recording any one of them, I actually feel the same way – how could the opera exist without every single note of his??? But I do think this is the pinnacle of the opera for him, even if most people believe it peaks with “Scherza Infida,” for understandable reasons. But this is actually the REAL challenge of Ariodante as a man: he finds out he completely misjudged Ginevra, and in fact betrayed HER with his quick, eager assumption. All of a sudden, all that relentless, wicked vengeance he directed at her is suddenly turned onto himself.

Again, Handel gives us jagged angles in the music – dotted rhythms, leaping intervals, and a dark, troubled color with both bassoons adding into the orchestral mix. Ariodante begins by blaming the “blind night”, and the evil friend and traitor who set him up. It seems the entire A and B sections find him trying desperately to displace the blame – anywhere but on himself. But then, at least in my personal subtext, even though the text repeats, I think Ariodante starts to accept the blame himself. I see that HE, in fact – not the night, but he, himself, betrayed this “gran fe” (“great faith”). I think the only reason he can pick himself up and return to his people, is because he is not afraid to take the blame. He is not afraid to answer for his actions.

That assumption of responsibility is truly what makes Ariodante a hero – not his title, not his showy arias, but the fact that he drags himself back to life and faces the woman he loves, admitting his failing.

I tried to find that realization in the da capo, keeping all the mixture of emotion and exhaustion that overcomes him. But each time I come to that aria, I’m convinced it’s a masterpiece, and it defines the character of Ariodante so completely. Ah, they ALL are! Who am I kidding????

**Let me also throw in one rather LARGE disclaimer at this point. I’m happy to share my personal approach and experience with this recording, HOWEVER, it must be said that even if I FEEL all these things and AIM to translate them onto disc, I may fail miserably!! I can imagine someone purchasing this disc (and 10 more as Christmas presents – hint, hint!), and then stumbling onto the blog and thinking, “That’s not at ALL what comes across in this aria! Was she on drugs???” Perhaps one of the greatest surprises to fans out there might be to find out that what we as singers often BELIEVE we are communicating, often arrives to you, the listener, as something completely different. (Just try recording your outgoing voicemail message, and you’ll see what I’m talking about: what you THINK you sound like and how you MEANT to say it, often are miles apart from the result you actually hear!) So, I just wish to release myself from any and all responsibility for your listening experience of this opera when it arrives on your shelf at home! I’m simply sharing my observations – what arrives, is out of my control!

Ah, there! Now I can relax!

The wonderful part of this experience, in addition to the mystical music, is getting to create such art with magnificent people. Alan Curtis has devoted his life to the research and proliferation of Handel’s music, and the legacy he is leaving behind is mind blowing.

(Ah, as another side note – he found ornaments for “Scherza infida” that were most likely written either BY Handel himself, or by a singer who worked with him extensively. I’ve implemented a few – including a rather unusual cadenza – but both Alan and I thought it would be interesting to include what perhaps might be the most authentic of variations. In truth, they are actually quite shocking to what a modern ear has become accustomed. I imagine it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I do think it will be most interesting!)

So there is Alan, and there is his wonderful band of players, all who play simply for the joy of making music – certainly not for the big paycheck! So it feels as if we are a part of something very special here. Anyone who bemoans that there aren’t any studio recordings of operas being made simply need to google Alan Curtis! I’ve lost track of how many he has contributed to the universe. Handel has certainly never enjoyed such a plethora of devotion!

Happily I have the morning off, and I plan on reveling in the extra hour or two of sleep it will bring. I’ll need it, as we have saved the most difficult aria of all (technically speaking – not emotionally speaking!) for the last day, and it greets me tomorrow evening after a slew of dramatic recitatives in the afternoon. So many notes lay ahead for me tomorrow, I dutifully close my computer and call it a night.

“It’s a night.”

5 hours ago

Is it too biased if I also highly recommend it? 🤗 #ticketalert

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I am touched to receive the award for Best Female Singer 2019 as part of the Oper! Awards. This Opera Family is som…

21 Sep

RT @AskonasHolt: Inspiring words from @JoyceDiDonato on #InternationalDayofPeace #TalkPeace 📸 © Brooke Shaden / @brookeshaden https://t.c

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I am truly touched to receive the award for Best Female Singer 2019 as part of the inaugural Oper! Awards. This Opera Family is something I treasure deeply, and to join in such a wonderful celebration together as we forge our way forward into the 21st Century is something that inspires me deeply! Onwards and upwards, and sincere congratulations to all the honorees! ✨ ▶︎ 📷 @chrissingerme

#Repost @royaloperahouse with @get_repost ・・・ Handel with care Not long now until Handel’s Agrippina opens on the Main Stage! Starring Joyce DiDonato in the title role, the opera is considered Handel's first operatic masterpiece. When it premiered in 1709 it proved an immediate success and an unprecedented series of 27 consecutive performances followed. This production is brought to life with characteristic invention by director Barrie Kosky. Agrippina opens on Monday - head to our website to book tickets now!

Day 4 of our 8-Days-In-A-Row Rehearsal Marathon to bring #Agrippina to London’s @royaloperahouse in all her glory? ✔️ No question: she is something else!!!! #absolutepowercorruptsabsolutely

I am thrilled to have been named “Female Singer of the Year” for my new album “Songplay". This album holds a very special place in my heart and we had an absolute blast recording it. Huge thank you to @opusklassik for this honor and congratulations to all the other award recipients. I’m so proud to be a part of the classical music family which aims to bring beauty, truth, and reflection into the world. The official ceremony will take place at @konzerthausberlin on October 13th and will be broadcast on ZDF. 🎧 Listen to the Opus Klassik Winners 2019 playlist on @idagioofficial: • 📷 @chrissingerme • Styling: @vitatzykun • Art direction: @catecool • 💎 @tamsenz • 💄 @glowbyaffan • @warner_classics @warnerclassicsus @craigterrypiano #songplay #craigterry @hotlipsporter @lautaro_greco #chuckisraels #jimmymadison #playwiththatsong #yougottalovetobeabletoplay #withasonginmyheart #mezzosoprano #joycedidonato #musicislife #musiciansofinstagram #womenartists

I am so happy to make my debut in Romania this afternoon and sing a concert at the prestigious George Enescu Festival. I hope you can all join us at the gorgeous Romanian Athenaeum. @enescu_festival Photo: @simon.pauly • #georgeenescufestival #athenaeum #mezzosoprano #operasingersofinstagram #tourlife #musiciansofinstagram #musicislife #haydn #mozart #bellini #berlioz #rossini #hahn #pabloluna #recital #operalife #womenartists #instamusic #instaclassical #musicislife #mezzosrock #artistsoninstagram

Hey @nyo.usa - missing you all, so sporting my @converse sneaks in solidarity!!!! Such a WONDERFUL experience performing with each of you on tour! When we meet again on the concert stages of the world, please come say HELLO!!!!! In the meantime, go conquer this next year of your training and your LIFE!!!!! #standingovation to y’all!!!! Xoxoxo

LIVE from the @elbphilharmonie on!!! 🔗 Please join me, Maestro #antoniopappano and the extraordinary, life-affirming #NYOUSA orchestra for the conclusion of our incredibly memorable tour! (Or If you’re in Hamburg, head down to the hall to watch live on the open-air screen for free!) I promise, you will feel uplifted, inspired, and full of hope by watching these extraordinary young musicians!!! • • “When Joyce DiDonato was singing Le spectre de la rose from Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été — her voice so tender, so poignant, so full of meaning — it really was hard to imagine anything more perfect. [...] DiDonato made it human and transcendent.” - The Times • • 📷 @chrisleephotonyc @carnegiehall #berlioz #lesnuitsdete #joycedidonato #musiciansofinstagram #instaclassical #livestream #musicislife #tourlife

My heart...thank you, @bbc_proms and all the gorgeous #Prommers and the gorgeous @royalalberthall and you gorgeous #London audiences! I was very proud today to stand alongside the incredible musicians of the #nyousa orchestra bringing #Berlioz to life. Such a beautiful souvenir!!!

Can’t think of a more gorgeous way to wake up on this Sunny London Morning than to join the divine #NYOUSA in Berlioz’s *sublime* Les nuits d’été, LIVE at the @bbc_proms. You can join us LIVE to listen on @bbcradio3! It is a complete joy to share the stage with these incredible musicians. Photo: the divine @chrisleephotonyc

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