Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato – coming off rave reviews for her role debut as Isolier in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Rossini’s rarely-seen Le comte Ory – takes to the Met stage again on May 7-13 to make her house role debut as the Composer in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. At a recent Met Q&A, the ever-effervescent singer talked about the Composer – a “trouser role” like Isolier, but from a completely different musical world: “I’ve sung the Composer before and it speaks very strongly to me – he is ardent and naïve and purposeful,” she explained. “Strauss sketched him so perfectly that I only need to sing what’s on the page and he will hopefully spring to life!” About the role’s being “a perfect part” for her, she added: “I think it’s that combination of innocence and dedication to music. ‘Sein wir wieder gut’ is an anthem to the magical world of music, and I think anyone who has had the honor to sing those words has a special affinity for this young man.”
DiDonato’s new Virgin/EMI album – Diva, Divo, a collection of favorite and rare arias for characters in both pants and skirts – climaxes with the mezzo’s scintillating take on “Sein wir wieder gut.” BBC Music magazine judged the album full of “singing that restores your faith in human nature,” while Gramophone magazine, which crowned DiDonato its 2010 Artist of the Year, praised the disc’s concept as well as its singing: “Applause for the imagination – I guess the compiler is the diva herself – can be doubled for her performances of Bellini and Rossini.” In the U.S., Mike Silverman’s Associated Press review concluded: “One of today’s most accomplished singers, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has it all.” The singer recently signed a long-term renewal of her EMI contract, prompting Virgin Classics president Alain Lanceron to call her relationship with the label “a wonderful adventure.”
DiDonato’s performance in Le comte Ory was broadcast around the world as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series. Encore broadcasts will be presented in the U.S. on Wednesday, April 27, and in Canada on Saturday, May 7 and Monday, June 13. Directed by Bartlett Sher, Le comte Ory saw DiDonato reunited with Juan Diego Flórez, her co-star last season in Scher’s hit Met production of Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia. Critical hosannas for DiDonato’s Isolier came from all corners. The Wall Street Journal found the mezzo “winning” and praised the way she kept “the comic tension high,” while the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini considered the role “triumphantly performed by Ms. DiDonato, who sang with plush sound and impeccable passagework; sent top notes soaring; and conveyed all the swagger of a smitten page.” And, for the Associated Press, Mike Silverman offered this: “Perhaps best of all, American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato sang Isolier with luxuriant tone and dazzling agility – and made one wish the role were bigger.”
On May 4 in New York City, DiDonato joins pianist Jeremy Denk for an intimate house concert as part of the Michael Palm Series to benefit Classical Action, a leading arts organization in the fight against AIDS. See www.classicalaction.org/events/tickets.html for more information about this event.
It has been a whirlwind year for DiDonato. Her Met successes followed a winter that included a return to the role of Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at Houston Grand Opera. She also gave an eight-city U.S. recital tour capped by her main-stage Carnegie Hall recital debut, which featured the world premiere of Heggie’s song cycle The Breaking Waves; according to the New York Times, “The piece ebbed and flowed beautifully, its whispered nuances and soaring arches rendered with utter conviction by Ms. DiDonato.”
The second major tour of DiDonato’s season will see the mezzo crossing Europe in the dramatic title role of Handel’s Ariodante in performances with Il Complesso Barocco and conductor Alan Curtis. The tour, which celebrates Virgin/EMI’s May release of an Ariodante recording with DiDonato, Curtis, and company, starts on May 20 in Baden-Baden, Germany, with stops in Paris and London. Of DiDonato’s way with Ariodante’s famous aria “Scherza, infida,” which appears on her 2009 Virgin arias album Furore, the UK’s Observer noted: “Pain mingles exquisitely with sorrow in her daring decoration of ‘Scherza, infida’ from Ariodante.”
After Ariodante, DiDonato appears in London for a July 5-16 run in the title role of Massenet’s Cendrillon at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Opera magazine lauded her Cendrillon performance at Santo Fe Opera in 2005 as “full of pathos and dazzling vocalism.” The mezzo’s season – once again, a red-letter one – finally draws to a close with her appearances as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at Germany’s Baden-Baden Festival on July 18-24.