Joyce DiDonato makes a welcome return to Wigmore Hall at the beginning of July for two sold-out recitals, as she celebrates her love of the baroque and 19th-century bel canto through a programme themed around another of her passions, Venice. In conjunction, she is auctioning off five photographs depicting various scenes from this beloved city, each corresponding to a song from the recital program.

Joyce shares her idea behind the Auction:

Thomas Mann scored a direct bull’s eye when he observed that:

“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty – this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.


"O le frêle et frais murmure"

That most sought after, often tragically elusive “must have” for artists: the mystic quiver of the tentative, loaded paintbrush first gracing the canvas; the shaking, searching, first slice of the chisel into the lifeless, heartless marble; that first fluttering inhale of breath that perhaps will set the singer’s soul into flight through song.

It can be fleeting, abundant, shriveled, or soaring – but it most stubbornly has a mind and a schedule of its very own. As a student of singing (and naturally of life) when a single object inspires so many varied artists and minds to greatness, I want desperately to delve into it and see what the fuss is all about!

My first experience with “Venice” came through song most unexpectedly when my University Voice teacher presented me with3 Songs of Venice by Michael Head.

(Unexpected, because they could hardly have been considered part of standard collegiate repertoire, let alone regular recital rep. at the time.) When I first read through the songs, however, I was instantly transported and my imagination caught fire: all of a sudden I could hear the call of the Gondoliers around the bend, could feel the pigeons whizzing by my ear swooping in for food, and I could sense the paradox of the grandeur and the loneliness residing together, for his settings were so evocative.

After nearly a decade, I was finally able to set sail among the winding canals myself, and the city captured my heart ~ not to mention my eye ~ at once. With my trusty camera by my side, and with the haunting words and melodies of Head, Hahn, Fauré, Schubert and Rossini in my head, I saw their inspiration all around me – as if the city, itself was singing to me. I snapped away, and as I developed the photos, I heard the music come alive once again.

Naturally I wrote to John Gilhooly straight away with the crazy idea:

“Dear John:

How about an auction of my photographs where the vast proceeds from the sales can directly benefit the Educational Programming at our beloved Wigmore Hall?!?!?!”

(For the record, his response, polite as ever, didn’t betray a single hint of how audacious he surely must have found me to be!)

"Und nur der Schiffer wacht"

I do not profess to be a seasoned photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do feel a very strong complicity between my senses – my eye picks up what my ear might long to hear and of what my voice might yearn to sing. In the venue of an intimate song cycle where we all collectively agree to take a musical journey together, I thought it would be a fitting idea to meld the inspired compositions of Vivaldi and Fauré and Schubert, with a few of my photographs that have served as inspiration to my imagination and sensibility of “a city more beautiful than any other.” (Michael Head)

Wigmore Hall offers a unique opportunity to bid for 5 of Joyce DiDonato’s photographs of Venice in a ‘first-price sealed-bid’ auction. Each photograph was inspired by a different song to be performed in her recitals this July, and will be signed with a personal dedication from Joyce. All proceeds from the auction will go to Wigmore Hall’s Learning programmes, to benefit people of all ages.