Realizing a Dream

Words like “lucky”, “fortunate” or “blessed”, although often uttered by myself, tend to make me quite nervous.  I suppose I worry that it creates a hierarchy of sorts, or sets me apart in some cloying way. But yet I keep returning to them religiously in a way I’m sure borders on the tiresome.  I closed the first leg of the “Drama Queens” tour this week, and I find myself trying still to digest exactly what transpired, and those three words refuse to give up lodging in my thoughts.

©Cory Weaver at Carnegie Hall

I had been given the remarkable opportunity to record (in 2012!) a very personal work of mostly obscure 16th and 17th century arias, having lain long dormant on sleepy, dusty shelves, and certainly belonging to the unexamined, oft-alluded to category of “boring”.  (I mean, Cesti…!!)  And yet there I was in Berlin and Hannover and Vienna and Kansas City breathing life into these latent phrases, with rare exception, for the first time in most of the listeners’ lives (Piangerò perhaps to be excluded), and by simple observation, they seemed to be spellbound.

We all know how a thrilling, resounding explosion of applause can ignite a concert hall, but I think I can safely say that it is the hushed, still, immobile moments that thrill us performers the most.  The slow, internal, lamenting gems of this program (Lasciami piangere, Madre diletta abracciami) completely unknown in modern times until now, have worked their magic on those listening to them for the first time as the charged electric atmosphere of the hall, whether in New York or Bremen, seemingly gripped every person in attendance, amping up our intensity from the stage even more.  It was magic.

But magic also happens when we rip into the Orlandini or Handel “dance numbers” and smiles are contagiously spread over the attendees, and shoulders are bopping, heads are beating – people caught up in the euphoria of the pulse, the melody, the centuries old sentiment.

©Cory Weaver at Carnegie Hall

That was the dream for me ~ sensing that time simply didn’t exist; feeling in a most tangible way that a real, discernable connection was happening: connection via the centuries, across gender, politics and geography, via incorporeal sound waves.  Here I was, singing music written by men my elder by hundreds of years, with text penned by equally ancient strangers, but which could have been extracted from my personal journal from past years, and here I was on some of the greatest stages of the world, laying myself bare in front of total strangers. That concept, made incarnate in these concerts, continues to blow my mind.  I sincerely don’t know how to explain it, but it’s the very essence of why I do what I do. I believe utterly in that indefinable, enigmatic power of music to transform people.  I’ve seen it first hand, I’ve experienced it as a grateful audience member, and I’ve heard countless stories from people whose lives have changed because of such a musical experience.

To call myself fortunate for being a part of this mystical chain reaction is something I simply cannot avoid. (It would also seem somehow ungrateful to not use that expression.) But also because this tour involved creating true chamber music with extraordinary musicians all around.  In a setting with 14 instrumentalists, all concentrated on music of the highest emotional content, each one is called on to play the role of soloist each expected to make a generous contribution to the musical outcome.  It’s THRILLING to stand in among them and hear them taking risks, responding to the emotional fever, allowing themselves the freedom to express without question! Each concert grew in freedom and joy, and that sense of keeping each moment ALIVE and PRESENT taught me tremendous lessons. It also is one of the most thrilling aspects of what a musician can do ~ to create something larger than their own self with the help and inspiration of others.

Sadly, a rather brutal schedule keeps me from socializing too much, or indulging in the beautiful sights and sounds of these amazing cities that host us.  There are interviews to do, CDs to sign, planes/trains/buses to catch, REST to be had, and all focus must remain on being in perfect shape for the concert every other day.  It is ruthless, exhausting, but so utterly uplifting. We all arrive at the concert hall after rugged travel, little sleep and half-open eyes, and we think “Where will we find the energy?” And then the downbeat happens – and we are electrified. Once again – the power of the music transforms! But it is a schedule I know I can’t maintain constantly (how do those performers, constantly on tour, do it?!?!)

The schedule will resume in Lisbon in February, and I’ll be counting down the days until I can revisit Octavia, Orontea, Berenice, Cleopatra – what  astonishingly beautiful women, full of confusion, fear, strength, vulnerability and power.  This is one of THOSE projects I know that will stay with me for a very long time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to lose my head …

Backstage with Il Complesso Barocco at Carnegie Hall





  1. Ana Paula Cunningham said…

    Thank you for being such an inspiration for every singer out there that has the need to express and communicate with the world
    It was lovely meeting you for 2 times in row this year, and hope to see a concert of your soon, ( you should try coming to Montréal 😀 )
    A big hug for you and never change that beautiful soul you have.

    all the best,

    Ana Paula

  2. Steve Totten said…

    Joyce, you are the consummate artist, the complete musician, the very epitome of the title “Diva!”
    Congratulations on completing the first leg of the tour. Good luck with the rest of your performances. I hope to see you in live someday, myself.


  3. Helen Berggruen said…

    Dear Joyce,
    As may perhaps be predicted, I am in the course of writing you an actual letter, but could not resist the immediacy of this method of communication. In California it is still November 25, so you must have written your dispatch very recently. You are right! Being in the audience for Drama Queens was transformative. I had the good fortune to hear the concert both at Carnegie Hall and the new Green Music Center in Sonoma. At Carnegie Hall, which was packed to the rafters, one could hear a pin drop during those “hushed, immobile moments”.It was extraordinary .
    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to discover this fantastic music. Your performances are always so ALIVE, so ESSENTIAL.
    I hope you have a chance to recover from that demanding schedule, and get some rest before rehearsals begin for Maria Stuarda!
    With great admiration,
    Helen B

  4. Jacki Henderson said…

    You are such a beautiful person, inside and out. Every time I read one of your entries or watch one of your videos, I am constantly reminded of the ”stay modest but confident” mantra my parents raised me on. You exude confidence but you remain ever thankful and I find that so inspiring. I have to ask, is your family a big part of your life and do you draw some of your confidence and belief in yourself from them?

    Thank you for being someone I look up to!

  5. You share your good fortune with the rest of us, every time you sing. Thank you for that.

  6. Naomi Sankaran said…

    Dear Joyce
    Thank you for all the wonderful, beautiful, gorgeous, AMAZING things you say and sing! I love your Drama Queens and I simply can’t wait to see your concert in London. You represent everything that I love about opera and I have no doubt that if more teenagers like me could see the wonderful things you do, they would also be inspired! Thank you so much for being awesome!
    Naomi xxx

  7. Pat Newman said…

    Your Drama Queens concert in Sonoma took my breath away. Your soul touches everyone. To me, you are the true artist — giving so generously of your talent whether to a disapointingly small audience on a rainy night in California or a packed hall in New York. I so appreciate your generosity in additioni to your incredible voice.

  8. JUAN said…

    Dear Joyce, as some millions on this planet I admire you to the most extreme. Here I just wish , for all to see and listen, to mention your performance in 2002 for the 20TH Anniversary of the French baroque Orchestra les Musiciens du Louvre (at about 25 minutesand half from the beginning. Was not the Princess of Navarre already a drama queen?

  9. Neil Nicastro said…

    Thanks so much for coming to Carnegie Hall in Novemeber- we really needed something to lift our spirits in NYC and you did that for us.

  10. Sylvain said…

    Hi Joyce!

    Jacques Prévert, a great French poet and film maker, once said “Soyons heureux, ne serait-ce que pour montrer l’exemple” (let us be happy, if only to provide a good example). At every turn you are showing that poets know the deep truths of life: your bliss as an artist is also ours. Please continue that way!

  11. Judith Ricca said…

    Dear Joyce,
    I only started reading your Yankee Diva Blog, and I opened “Realizing A Dream” 11/16/2012′ and guess what I am listening to – your CD “Drama Queens” having no idea this is the topic. Talk about serendipity. I was at your Jan. 8th performance of “Maria Stuarda” at the Met, It is still with me. I will be buying the DVD when it comes out. Pace e Bene, Judith Ricca

  12. Maude Larke said…

    So, when you said “I’ll be there too” during the signing at the Barbican, when I refered to the Forez and Donna del Lago events, I would have said, if I had a head, “oh, do, it won’t be the same without you.” But it’s still true. Superb Drama <Queens, and can't ait for the rest.

    Keep up the energy!

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