Blog

Refreshing innocence

Tonight is the opening of Massenet’s Cendrillon here at the Royal Opera House. It will be the first time this opera has ever appeared on this distinguished stage, which is quite a moment in operatic history, and to say I’m exuberant is an understatement, for this is a role, amidst a most favorite production, that I simply adore.

I first met “Lucette” in 2006 with the Santa Fe Opera, and it truly was love at first reading. I remember opening

Laurent Pelly, our gifted and generous Stage Director

the piano score and playing the simple orchestral passage that introduces her, and my heart melted a bit.  Little did I know how well Laurent Pelly, our stage director, would capture that moment, as he first introduces Cendrillon peeking through a tiny cut-out door fit only for a mouse, immediately conveying to the audience who she is, and what fate awaits her.  (I’ve reveled in Laurent’s imagination as he expertly crafts the perfect entrance and exit for each character in this piece – each a brilliant device to punctuate who each person is: watch for the carriage’s entrance, the Mother gliding in on her own kind of thrown, the sisters showing their “ass~ets” on their first entrance, the Fairy Godmother sauntering victoriously off with her back to the audience while floating the highest of notes, the Prince stowed away, cowering in his misery.)

My joy in returning to this piece has been solidified during the rehearsal process as I watched my fellow cast members start to fall one by one for the magic of it! I bounded into the first day of rehearsal bursting at the seams, and the rest of the cast looked at me as if I was perhaps a bit mental.  That’s not necessarily an unusual reaction for me, but I hoped in this case I would be proven most sane by the end, and sure enough – through the course of stagings and orchestral rehearsals, they have each been transported into this Fairy Tale of innocence and charm.  I remember the first day Alice Coote, our fabulous Prince Charming, uttered, “I can’t stand this – it’s all too beautiful! WHERE has this piece been?!?!”  There’s been no turning back.

Alice and Laurent discuss

Cendrillon's "Carosse"

The thing is, this is not a perfect opera, by any stretch of the imagination.  There is probably a reason that it hasn’t entered the standard repertoire, although all of Massenet’s pieces have struggled to take hold ~ even his masterpiece Werther can’t QUITE claim to be standard rep.  Massenet is perhaps not to everyone’s taste, and seems to fall into the category of being “too French”, whatever that means.  But that’s the PRECISE reason I adore it.

In rehearsals the words “innocent” and “charming” and “naive” kept creeping into our conversations: “This duet is so PURE and INNOCENT”, for when the Prince and Cendrillon first meet at the ball, she says things like “I want to consecrate my life to you”, and most simply of all, “You are my Prince Charming.”  There are no curses, no murders, no leaping off tall buildings.  Not a single army jacket or combat boot to be found. Instead, Laurent wisely chose to let the piece be simply what it is: a fairy tale.  A gossamer fairy tale, in both story and MUSIC.  And honestly? I find it unabashedly refreshing right about now!!

I think there was a reason the Busby Berkeley Musical’s were so popular during WWII and the Depression Era, as people longed to be transported out of their every day misery and struggle.

I’m not so sure that we’re in such different times at the moment. Lots of questions hover around us at the moment: what

The Book of Fairy Tales serves as the foundation of this production

value do the arts carry? who exactly deserves equal rights? is tolerance, or even better yet, acceptance possible? I’m the very first person to recognize the importance that the arts play in opening up (to quote Sister Helen) “a civil dialogue” between people to sort out some of the hard pressing issues of today, but I also think it’s important to simply let music/art/opera CARRY US AWAY from time to time. To allow ourselves to dream a little bit? To escape? To laugh? Maybe to cry? To remind ourselves of what innocence was like, and to allow things to CHARM us.

One of the big things I try to encourage young singers who are SO intent on making it in this career, and who are determined to conquer that horrible beast, perfection, at all costs, is to never, ever forget the element of PLAY. It’s the reason most people are first attracted to music – we bang on the pots and pans, pound on the piano keyboard, astonished at the SOUND that arises out of our interaction with an instrument. Before we are taught that there is a “right” way to “do it”, we are simply PLAYING! I find that this piece is a gift on a silver platter for all of us to simply settle in and play, hopefully bringing the audience along for the ride!

One other tiny thing? This cast is such a dream and I feel so honored to share the stage with them. Is there another opera (well, surely one of those Handel ones!) that allows for FOUR MEZZOS to share the stage? It’s Mezzo-palooza all over again! I do hope you will all enjoy it!

PS If you do end up loving the production, I had quite a fun time shooting some photos during rehearsals (and surely more will appear during the course of the run!) You can investigate them on my FLICKR page for fun!

Playing in my spare time. Photo: Alice Coote!

17 Aug

Ready for the wicked....!!!!!! https://t.co/y5Op9N3JdS

17 Aug

Thank you so much, James! https://t.co/zOhrUiIZ8F

16 Aug

On now....!!!! The future is BRIGHT!!! https://t.co/NqwqBCCxWe

FOLLOW Joyce DiDonato

LIVE from the @elbphilharmonie on @medici.tv!!! 🔗link in bio. 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

Y’all know this is going to be epic, right?!?! @jbartonmezzo is coming to town to rock the #Proms!!!!!!!! #epic #mezzosrock #dichteuyoubetterholla

Hey #NYOUSA!! Flying to you!! Can’t wait to meet you all and share an amazing experience together at the @edintfest!!!

Couldn’t have asked for a better, more old-fashioned road trip vacation than this ... Seattle-to-LA, baby! Gratefully reminded, once again, of how much beauty exists in staggering abundance all around us, should we dare to look up and bear witness to it. #lookup #summerlovin #roadtrip #youneverfullyrealizewhatyouhaveuntilitsgone #1136miles #bliss #shameonmeforbeingaformerpickupsnob #divasapparentlydrivepickupsnow #whaaaaaaa??? 😎

Do you see anything beautiful around you in this moment...??? #summerlovin #lookaround #futuressobrightigottawearshades #breathe #connect #turnoffthenews #racismisrotten #raiseyourvoice

What questions do you ask when you look upwards....?? #summerlovin #cloudlovin #contemplationbaby #lookup

Can’t stop looking up! #ombramaifu #summerlovin #branchingout #treesglorioustrees #inspired

Follow Joyce on Instagram

There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.

~ Joyce DiDonato