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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

 

 

 

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So looking forward to #Winterreise tonight for @princetonuniversityconcerts with beloved @nezetseguin ... each return to this piece brings such unexpected discoveries. Photo: @andredesrosiersphotos

Looking forward to these powerful concerts with Yannick @nezetseguin! Schubert: Winterreise • Dec 08 | @clubmusicaldequebec Dec 11 | @princeton University Dec 15 | @carnegiehall * 📅 joycedidonato.com/category/events/🖥 *Live on @medici.tv - Dec. 15. www.medici.tv/en/calendar/ • • “The DiDonato/Nézet-Séguin pairing is inspired, one of those special nights where you rarely get to see two musical superstars pull off a work of this magnitude.” • ~ Independent Kansas City

And with the snap of the fingers, this blissful, nourishing tour with the extraordinary @orchestre_metropolitain comes to a conclusion. After touring some of the top halls in North America, what a joy to finish in the home of the @philorch, another base for the boundless energy and gifts of @nezetseguin. It also wraps up 3 astonishing months for me, going from Agrippina in London, across Sputh America and landing in DC for #InWarAndPeace, launching the new recording of #Damnation, visiting the @npr #tinydesk, (look for it in Jan!), and even traveling to ancient Egypt yesterday! Is there a more perfect conclusion to this memorable period than #Mozart? I think not! Photo: @fgoupil #partopartotomorrow #thatclari netthough #fullcircle #lastsangthisariainphillytwentyfouryearsagoatavaforthedeathbyariasingoff #spellcheckTHAT

#StandingOvation to the entire #Akhnaten Family for this beautiful performance today. Utterly unforgettable!!!! #Repost @metopera with @get_repost ・・・ Mezzo-soprano @joycedidonato hosted today’s Live in HD transmission of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten—seen in more than 70 countries worldwide. 🌎 Don’t miss her performance in the upcoming production of Agrippina, live in cinemas on February 29! #MetHD #MetOpera #Opera #Akhnaten #PhilipGlass #LiveinHD #Movies

Live from the Met in one hour! The Met's epic production of Philip Glass' Akhnaten is shown live on screen in cinemas worldwide and I am thrilled to host the broadcast. In bocca al lupo to this stellar cast! I can't wait to see the show and speak to you about this gorgeous work. @metopera #metopera #liveinhd #Movies #PhilipGlass #Akhnaten @philipglassmusic @arcostanzo #MetHD

An overwhelming evening last night @carnegiehall, with my fellow Perspective”s Artist, @nezetseguin, as he brought his first orchestra, @orchestre_metropolitain, to this beautiful hall for the first time. The pure joy and abundant love that poured forth from the legendary stage in the remarkable Bruckner 4 elevated us all. What a gift it is to be a part of his world. 🎉💃🎉 Photo: @fgoupil

It was an overwhelming musical experience to return to Strasbourg and my "Berlioz Family" to bring "La Damnation de Faust" to life! Released today, I can't think of a more perfect way to round out this Berlioz Year. I hope you will listen and be swept away, as we all were by the experience! @philharmonique_de_strasbourg @spikelmyers @nicolascourjal @alexandreduhamelbaritone @warner_classics @warnerclassicsus • 💿 Link in bio to pre-order the album. • • #berlioz #berlioz150 #yearofberlioz #faust #opera #newmusicfriday

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Thank you #AnnArbor, @umspresents, @orchestre_metropolitain , beloved @nezetseguin, and divine #Mozart. My soul is well-nourished tonight. ❤️❤️❤️

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

~ Joyce DiDonato