Joyce DiDonato Plays Octavian in Madrid Before Returning to US in January
It’s already been a red-letter autumn for the American mezzo-soprano, with DiDonato winning two prestigious 2010 Gramophone Awards – “Artist of the Year” and “Recital of the Year”, as well as Germany’s 2010 Echo Klassic “Singer of the Year” Award. She continues her illustrious 2010-11 season with a December full of performances in another of her key roles, that of Octavian in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, at Madrid’s Teatro Real.
On her debut as Octavian in 2007 at San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Chronicle extolled her vocal art and dramatic verity: “The evening’s signal triumph belonged to Joyce DiDonato, undertaking Octavian for the first time and turning the role into something tender and strong. Her singing was robust and full of feeling, and she brought the technical precision and alertness of her finest Rossini and Handel performances to this very different stylistic strain. . . The result was a performance that seemed to breathe, displaying all the headstrong charm and mutability of this 17-year-old aristocrat still finding his way through the worlds of love and honor in 18th-century Vienna.”
DiDonato began the season by making her house debut at Berlin’s august Deutsche Oper with an October run in her signature role of Rosina in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Typifying the love affair the press has with DiDonato, the New York Post praised to the skies her Metropolitan Opera performances of Rosina last season: “Best in show was Joyce DiDonato as the rebellious ingenue Rosina. Not only did she nail every musical curlicue, she added intriguing variations of her own, modulating her sleek mezzo-soprano with subtle shifts of color and tempo. Just three months after fracturing her leg doing this opera in London, she scampered around the stage with the madcap verve of a young Bette Midler.”
Underscoring the fact that DiDonato is the mezzo of the moment, she was honored earlier this fall in London with two Gramophone Awards: “Artist of the Year” and “Recital of the Year.” The Gramophone Awards are the classical recording field’s most distinguished honors. Gramophone magazine readers decide the winner of the “Artist of the Year” trophy, voting for the musician who has had the biggest impact on classical music over the past twelve months. DiDonato got the nod over such fellow nominees as superstars Plácido Domingo and Lang Lang. DiDonato took home the critic’s choice trophy for “Recital of the Year” for her Virgin/EMI album Colbran, the Muse, a collection of fiery arias Rossini composed for his wife, Spanish soprano Isabelle Colbran. Just before DiDonato took the stage in Berlin as Rosina, she also received Germany’s Echo Klassik Award for 2010 “Singer of the Year”.
A whirlwind 2011
Winter and spring 2011 will further DiDonato’s standing as one of the most virtuosic, charismatic and theatrically versatile artists on the international scene – in opera, in recital and on record. For a January 22-February 5 run at Houston Grand Opera, the mezzo will return to the role of Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. She made her New York City Opera debut in the role in 2002, earning such plaudits as this one by Opera News: “Joyce DiDonato’s singing and acting of Sister Helen seem not merely perfect but a further creation beyond what composer and librettist could have imagined. Only Helen Prejean herself, sitting in the State Theater’s First Ring on opening night, could have taken the full measure of the impersonation. The role’s inordinate length seemed somehow to nourish DiDonato’s voice; her moods traveled easily and truthfully among religious rapture, clouds of doubt, sassy humor and feistiness.”
Throughout next February and into March, DiDonato will be joined by pianist David Zobel on an eight-date U.S. recital tour that takes her from Fort Worth, Santa Monica and her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, to Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and, finally, New York – where she will make her Carnegie Hall main-stage recital debut on March 6.
DiDonato’s base will be New York and the Metropolitan Opera from March through May, with the mezzo making her role debut as Isolier in a new Met production by Bartlett Scher of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory (March 24-April 21). The cast also includes Juan Diego Flórez and Diana Damrau, with the April 9 performance to be broadcast around the world via the Met’s Live in HD series. DiDonato will stay on at the Met to star as the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (May 7-13).
A renowned Handelian, DiDonato earned great praise on both sides of the Atlantic for her performances as Dejanira in the composer’s opera Hercules. The UK’s Independent said of a 2006 portrayal: “DiDonato’s Dejanira physically expresses her lustful scorn for her errant husband by ripping off first his medals, then his clothes. And what a performance DiDonato gives – colouring every phrase with exquisite musicality, pervading every scene with her sulphurous rage.” The second major tour of DiDonato’s season sees the mezzo taking on her next major Handel challenge, crossing Europe in the dramatic title role of Handel’s Ariodante in performances with Il Complesso Barroco and conductor Alan Curtis. The tour — which is to celebrate Virgin/EMI’s May release of an Ariodante recording with DiDonato, Curtis and company — starts on May 20 in Baden-Baden, Germany, and ranges to Paris and London before finishing on May 28 in Valencia, Spain. Her way with Ariodante’s famous aria “Scherza Infida” has already been applauded via DiDonato’s recording on her Virgin arias disc Furore; the UK’s Observer said: “Pain mingles exquisitely with sorrow in her daring decoration of `Scherza Infida’ from Ariodante.”
DiDonato finishes her season with a July 5-16 run in the title role of Massenet’s Cendrillon at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, conducted by Bertrand de Billy. DiDonato’s 2005 Sante Fe Opera performance in Cendrillon was lauded as “full of pathos and dazzling vocalism” by Opera.
Courtesy of 21C Media Group