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Layering

I know I’ve spoken of this many times before, but I do love the process that constitutes my “job”. It is one of constant searching, insistent discovery and persistent flexibility, among many other things. Every time you take the stage, you have the opportunity to discover anew a multitude of things: how would the boy Octavian, playing the girl Mariandel, handle a fan? How does the anger and confusion shift in the Act 1 duet with the Marshallin each night ~ for one night my “Wie sie befielt, Bichette” is laced with profound sadness and adolescent tears, and then next night I find my anger and deep rejection poisoning the simple phrase with a cold streak? How does Octavian negotiate the bomb that Sophie absorbs as she realizes that he was the Marschallin’s lover ~ for one night my sympathy and responsibility outweigh the shame and regret I feel the next?

These questions and “answers” swing back and forth on a wild pendulum ride, often radically from show to show, and I find that if I can manage to stay open and flexible, within a well-established idea of the character, I can adapt to a variety of situations or impromptu realizations. When you’re lucky, you share the stage with colleagues that will play the game with you, and as a result the performance is vibrant and alive with listening and giving. Some of the risks pay off, and some don’t (I can usually sense it immediately) but that’s a chance I’m willing to take to find that magical moment of spontaneity.

The end result is hopefully one of continually layering these realizations and insights into the character so that you flesh out more and more some nugget of truth within the story. The Maestro actually confessed to me during the big orchestra rehearsal of the final week that he was pleased to see me starting to “butch it up”, because he was worried I wouldn’t be masculine enough. But as I thought about that, I could only reply, “Good – see, we need our time to layer our interpretations, and to grow into them!” And I found that to be true until the final glorious cut-off of the final duet of the final performance. It never stopped morphing for me, and I hope that I will always welcome that when on stage. But for my rehearsal process here, it was a matter of aligning, slowly, the text with the music with the blocking with the character with the walk with the swagger with the intention – one building block at a time.

Mariandel works her country charms on the Baron Ochs of Franz Hawlata

This idea of layering was also driven home during 2 master classes I had the pleasure to give here to aspiring young singers at the Conservatory here in Madrid. I found myself talking a mile a minute with ideas and thoughts, but the overall theme emerged to encompass the idea of FLEXIBILITY and LAYERING. We need to add one thing at a time, as singers: we start with learning a solid, bankable technique, and then slowly and diligently begin to add the musicality, the phrasing, the text, the sub-text, the expression, the individuality, the simplicity, the complexity, and hopefully even a spot of joy and enthusiasm. If we’re busy doing all of those things, chances are we stop focusing on how nervous we are and, God forbid, “what we SOUND like!!” (I’m rather anti the idea of singers being preoccupied with making SOUND – nothing bores me more.)

Flexibility was the other emerging theme, and it started simply as an anthem to find the ways, constantly, to keep the voice flexible (vocalize those nasty coloratura passages at different tempi, different dynamics, with different rhythms and with different phrasing, so the voice can never develop a “groove” – a singular way in which it works!). But it also took flight in the idea of staying flexible in your musicality and your theatrical sense – always remaining open to new ideas.

Here I was, in the midst of sorting out the mammoth role of Octavian, in front of young students who are dreaming of a career on the big stage, and we all are still working on the same issues, even if at perhaps different levels. But it proves my point that the process is never complete!

For my final little bit before my Christmas Vacation (of 2 days!) kicks into full gear, and courtesy of a 6-hour layover at the Newark Airport where there has been nothing to do but eat Fritos in the Continental Lounge (don’t judge!), I am more than happy to offer a little Holiday Gift to ya’ll – the best fans in the operatic kingdom! I had a crazy whim to do a little “behind the scenes” peek during the final show last night in Madrid. The final shows are notoriously the most relaxed and free, and I was certainly in a happy place knowing that I was flying home soon, so with the help of my wonderful cast and crew and a few other volunteers, we put together a little mini-film for you. It is completely improvised, but I had a lot of fun thinking to share a tiny bit of my backstage world with you. I do hope you’ll enjoy it!

In the meantime, I would love to quote the fabulous Jeanne-Michelle Charbonnet via one of her social networking sites and wish EACH and EVERY ONE of you a VERY “Happy Everything and a Merry Always”. Yeah. I like that!

CHEERS!
Your Yankeediva

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Is it too biased if I also highly recommend it? 🤗 #ticketalert https://t.co/AgREWELwpx

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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… https://t.co/LmHpvHqd3c

24 hours ago

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! ✨ ▶︎ www.oper-awards.com 📷 @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: https://app.idagio.com/playlists/opus-klassik-winners-2019 • 📷 @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 @medici.tv!!! 🔗 http://bit.ly/LesNuitsdEte-Elbphilharmonie. 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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There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.

~ Joyce DiDonato