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Time Travel: via the Royal Waves of Sound

Standing on the stage in Bremen, Germany last week for the second stop of my Drama Queens Tour, I had just finished a nearly two-hour marathon of singing about jealousy, revenge, seduction, lust, despair and marching-off-to-sacrifice-myself-to-appease-those-angry-gods (you know how pesky they can be!). The generous audience was stamping its feet football-style, kindly demanding an encore. There I stood, possessing only a few polite sentences of German in my limited vocabulary, begging their indulgence while I spoke in English, because “the only German I really know are the important words, like bratwurst and brot.”

Photo: QUEEN CITY SAUSAGE (how perfect is that?)

A slight chuckle mercifully rippled through the theater from the normally cool German audience, and so I proceeded to explain the first encore: “This is about a Queen so distraught from a broken heart, that she begs simply to be left alone to weep, and then to die.” (It’s not an unusual request from a Drama Queen in the course of an opera, for we must be given a chance to have our final, valiant, heart-breaking sing, you understand!)

As the first violin set out to raise his bow, sweeping up in intense emotion to set the mood, a low-rumble giggle wafted up from the front row as a very erudite, sophisticated older gentlemen said, “Ha ha ha … bratwurst.”

Me and my big mouth.

The mood may have been broken, but I had found a kindred spirit, to be sure. Laughter aside, I needed to quickly regain my composure to enter back into this world of supreme, utter, total despair — a misery encased in one of the most hauntingly beautiful, sublime melodies I’ve ever had the pleasure to sing,Lasciami piangere. It’s that fabulous, addictive Baroque gimmick where the most acute, excruciating pain is gilded with a sublime, extraordinary, time-stopping beauty of pure, simple melody.

So we did our thing of weeping and dying, and the resulting hush from the audience was electric. In the world of classical music, often we are busy revisiting the classics over and over again (they are classics for a reason), yet for this piece, even among these great connoisseurs of classical music in the audience, not a soul could possible have known this melody, for it had been laying in obscurity on a dusty library shelf for, most likely, the better part of nearly two centuries. (Can you imagine 200 years from now, someone “discovering” John Lennon’s “Imagine?”) As the audience slowly began to come to and start a rather stunned round of applause, my eye caught the “Bratwurst Gentleman,” and there he was, bent in two, as if in agony. As he slowly lifted himself back up, he revealed a beet red face with tears pouring down his cheeks. He was inconsolable.

From Baden Baden

I’ve never seen quite such a visceral reaction to a piece of music before, and it moved me greatly. I was immediately overcome with the sensation of how time no longer existed — it was as if the composer, Reinhard Kaiser (1674-1739), was standing among us via this transportive melody, carrying with it a timeless sentiment of sorrow, of grief and that universal, deep desire to connect.

THIS is what completely IGNITES my passion as a singer and as a woman: the idea that through this magical, mystical, masterful world of opera, an often stubborn, buried portal of feeling deep within us can be unleashed via the true, raw emotions carried to us on those perfect, vibrating waves of sound, connecting us over the centuries, across gender barriers, political divides, class or culture gulfs, and reminding us that we are all indeed, unquestionably, irrevocably connected.

In a world that somehow feels more divided than ever, culture will be our tonic. Culture, music, the arts — these indispensable behemoths of human creation at its very best teach us about ourselves, about our place in this world, and thankfully shine a spotlight on the fact that we all have MUCH more in common than what seemingly separates us. This is why Opera is thriving. This is why the baroque Drama Queens of 300-400 years ago can reappear and move us to tears, or make us feel like dancing. (Ellen? I’m talking to you, girl!) This is why music is, without a doubt, NECESSARY in our lives — it makes us better human beings, capable of feeling and growing much more than we might do left to our own devices in a world without melody.

I’m Joyce DiDonato, and I am a Drama Queen. Are you?

Backstage at Carnegie Hall, with Il Complesso Barocco

* This blog entry was written for The Huffington Post, published on November 20, 2012

16 hours ago

Please join the Brentano String Quartet and me for this live-streamed event, and discover this haunting, evocative… https://t.co/J7ze3ixGe0

19 hours ago

You are welcome......most welcome https://t.co/uo8AmJnLnu

23 hours ago

Ich auch .... https://t.co/6ePrU4wBLo

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Please join the Brentano String Quartet and me for this live-streamed event, and discover this haunting, evocative cycle by Jake Heggie, "Into the Fire”. Photo: @chrissingerme @wqxr_classical @medici.tv @warner_classics @greenespacenyc

The joy and privilege of bringing this program with this orchestra and this maestro to @carnegiehall is immeasurable! Hope you can be there!! @philorch @nezetseguin #Chausson #DeadLeaves #Roses #Lilacs #Love #Loss #PainfulBeauty #SublimePartnership @nkodamusic

Thanks to all who came out to catch the @sonyclassics film #MariaByCallas! It was thrilling to experience her story with you all in this city that she so loved - and which loved her so!

It is so special to be back in #Philly and to be making music with the #INCREDIBLE @philorch and the divine @nezetseguin. The splendid fall leaves and colors are the perfect inspiration and backdrop for our concerts this weekend of Chausson’s “Poemes de l’amour et de la mer”, exploring the loss of love and life, dead leaves, general despair. I hope you’ll be able to join if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, or at @carnegiehall on Tuesday!! #deadleavesarestillravishing

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For the record . . .

It has been a wonderful experience giving voice to the letters of Maria Callas for this highly acclaimed film. Hope to see you in NY for these special viewings! @mariabycallas #mariacallas @tomvolf @angelikafilmcenterny

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for joining in for the experience of Les Troyens tonight, and throughout the run. It has been a pivotal experience of my artistic life to arrive here with this beautiful role and extraordinary opera. I shall never forget it. Thank you to the lovely @catecool for the photo.

Coming to you, LIVE, from the @wienerstaatsoper today with Berlioz’s epic telling of “Les Troyens”. Singing the Queen Didon has been an enormous gift, and I hope to be able to share it with you today on the livestream (available for an additional 72 hours). Where will YOU be watching from? Link: https://bit.ly/2qpSdza *Qui connut la souffrance ne pourrait voir en vain souffrir ... *

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

~ Joyce DiDonato