Opera Reviews

Maria Stuarda, Metropolitan Opera

“The production stars the great American mezzo-soprano JoyceDiDonato in the title role, a part that has been sung by sopranos and mezzo-sopranos. Ms. DiDonato’s performance will be pointed to as a model of singing in which all components of the art form — technique, sound, color, nuance, diction — come together in service to expression and eloquence.

Ms. DiDonato is simply magnificent, singing with plush richness and aching beauty. At a few moments, from the collective sounds of the subdued chorus and orchestra, a pianissimo high note, almost inaudible, emerged from Ms. DiDonato’s voice, slowly blooming in sound and throbbing richness. I left the house not just moved but renewed, and ready to celebrate the arrival of a new year.” ~ Anthony Tomassini The New York Times January 2013

“Most important, [DiDonato] treats the complex bel-canto flights as emotional expressions, never merely as bravura filigree. This is an exquisitely proportioned, remarkably sensitive performance.” ~ Martin Bernheimer Financial Times January 2013

Photo ©Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

Photo ©Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera


DiDonato, now at the peak of vocal and interpretive resplendence, grasps the key element of early nineteenth-century Italian opera: the word and not, as so many ignorant commentators have claimed, “mere” vocal fireworks. To be sure, she served up virtuosity aplenty on Tuesday evening, whether in the form of a slender, glistening, exquisitely tapered thread of sound in her final prayers or in the giddy, defiant volley of roulades that she unfurled to thunder Mary’s contempt for Elizabeth. In the 1800s, though, the line between spoken and sung theatre was weakly drawn. Actors intoned and declaimed; Malibran and other singers drove audiences into a frenzy with their vehement and razor-sharp recitation; and composers, including Verdi, Wagner, and the giants on whose shoulders they stood, Donizetti among them, prized artists who dug into their words while also delivering the vocal goods.

It is a mark of DiDonato’s greatness that, with a voice of modest size that she never abuses or inflates, she repeatedly drew thunderstruck ovations from a Met audience that so often mistakes decibels for excellence. The most memorable aspect of her performance for this writer was her unfailingly meaningful engagement with her role: her nostalgic caress for “France,” the lost, gracious kingdom that Mary recalls; the scalding, haunted tones she summoned when facing the ghosts of her past in Act II; and the acceptance and grace that infused her soaring melismas when Mary resolved to wash away Elizabeth’s remorse with her own blood. Even in our era of wondrous prowess in the music of Handel, Rossini, and others, DiDonato reigns supreme.

DiDonato carries all before her, and for her sublime, commanding performance and for Maria Stuarda’s long-overdue arrival at the Met we must be very grateful indeed.”  ~ Marion Lignana Rosenberg The Classical Review January 2013

Ms. DiDonato brought a luminous, meditative loveliness to Mary’s nostalgic opening aria, in which she thinks back to her home in France; the soft, floating trills were magical. But you could also see the effort required by her attempt at submission to Elizabeth, and her pride resurfaced with ferocious intensity. Equally fascinating was the confession scene, with the turbulence of her guilt giving way to an angelic serenity. Even her final aria—on her way to the block, she forgives Elizabeth—became a demonstration of Mary’s victory. She may be losing her head, but as her voice soared above the chorus she had the moral upper hand.” ~ Heidi Waleson The Wall Street Journal January 2013

©Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

©Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

From the moment she makes her entrance in the second scene, singing of her joy in strolling outside her prison in Fotheringay Castle, DiDonato rivets attention. She imbues every syllable with a concentrated eloquence that makes her compact voice seem larger than it is. She displays seemingly effortless command of coloratura embellishments throughout a wide vocal range. And she is equally impressive in fiery outbursts and in hushed, long-held phrases – like the ones she spun out as she sang through the chorus in the final scene.” ~ Mike Silverman Associated Press January 2013

DiDonato’s crowning achievement came in the sublime prayer to God in which she is joined by the entire chorus. During this moment, Mary is asked to sing two extensive high notes over the chorus. DiDonato demonstrated the true meaning of Bel Canto on both notes as she started them softly and slowly built them into a full flowered crescendos that were gut-wrenching in there execution. By the end of the opera, one should feel Mary’s growing strength and the idea that her death would finally be liberation from her suffering. DiDonato’s performance not only created this catharsis, but revealed the inner beauties of an often overlooked score.” ~ David Salazar Latinos Post January 2013

“Donizetti’s score is unusual in that either role — Mary or Elizabeth — can be cast for a soprano or a mezzo. Some of the great bel canto sopranos of the last few decades, including […] Sutherland and Sills, have undertaken the role of Mary. DiDonato makes a strong case that it rightfully belongs to the mezzo.”  ~ Wilborn Hampton Huffington Post January 2013

5 Dec

5 Dec

5 Dec

FOLLOW Joyce DiDonato

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

LOVE. #greatmindsthinkalike #fashion #OMUSA @nezetseguin @orchestre_metropolitain #tourlife #makestheworldgoaround

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

What fabulous news to wake up to, today!!!! So proud to be nominated for this hugely joyful project!!! Way to go, @craigterrypiano, @hotlipsporter, @lautaro_greco, #ChuckIsraels and #JimmyMadison!! Let’s Play On!!! #doesthatsaytwentytwenty #newdecaderealness #grammygrammygrammy @recordingacademy #grammys

Follow Joyce on Instagram

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

~ Joyce DiDonato