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A letter to the up & coming opera lovers!

There’s a wonderful opera fan out there who corralled several other ardent fans into starting their very own on-line magazine about opera, called Opera21.  It’s a brilliant venture, where they find a theme each month, solicit articles by their own readers, and put it out into the cybersphere for discussion, growth and discovery.  Absolutely my cup of tea!  The following is a letter I wrote to their editor for the February 2013 edition, and just wanted to share it with you here, as well.

Dear Opera21,

Congratulations on the launch of this exciting on-line magazine where each of you can delve deeper and deeper into your passions for opera and music!  It’s wonderful for me to have the confirmation of my passion about opera through your eyes, because each of you are ignited by the same emotional journeys, breathtaking musical moments and awe-inspiring productions that I am, and you are eagerly seeking a way to learn more.  Trust me, as long as you’re game, the journey of discovery never ends! Enjoy it!

I predict your operatic journey may sometimes be a love/hate relationship – for where there are big passions, there can be enormous disappointments.  Whether you are an aspiring singer who faces a deluge of rejections (oh, they’ll be there – just keep breathing!), or a fan who suffers through a cast that isn’t to your liking (or, God forbid, isn’t the same singer you first saw when you fell in love with a particular opera back in 2009…!), the disappointments will most definitely be there.

But so will the euphoric moments, and those blessed moments of tears and laughter or overwhelming profundity – or you’ll receive that first contract, or be accepted into the ensemble and begin relationships with friends who will be with you for life.  The highs and the lows will both feed you in completely different ways and ultimately bring more depth and joy into your life.

But may I offer one word of caution, or request one small favor?  Please don’t become a snob.  Please just resist that urge should it rear its ugly head. It’s not cool, definitely not attractive, and terribly, terribly boring. No matter how much you know, or how much you see and hear, and no matter how strong your opinions are, please don’t flirt with that imperial “level of knowing” where you stop listening, stop feeling, and stop learning.  By all means, be critical if you like, but please consider offering your opinions with grace and elegance. In other words, “Stay classy.”  Trust me, it will enhance your operatic experience by miles.

Throughout those inevitable highs and lows, please fight to keep the faith, and please do your part to keep the dialogue open and moving forward, so that you (yes, YOU) can be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.  I want YOU to help figure out where opera goes in YOUR Century.  Get creative, spread the word, think outside the box, be open enough so that the newcomers who will come and look to you for guidance will feel welcome, and please keep listening with those curious, eager ears so that the next generations of singers won’t feel that they have to compete with a “DiDonato” or a “Florez”.  (Not that there is anything wrong with either of those two!)

Finally, at last its my turn to stand up and applaud each of YOU, and yell BRAVI for your efforts and for your enthusiasm!  You are my argument against “Opera is a dying art form”, so get loud, get strong, and yes, stay classy!

CHEERS!

Joyce

18 Comments

  1. Mirjam Hege said…

    Dear Joyce DiDonato, I like your plea in this article not to become a snob and rather staying classy. And Bravi indeed.
    By the way, I followed with happy interest your Blog, your live-streams of Maria Stuarda and Juillard and like what I hear and see very very much. Wish you all the Best.
    Yours, Mirjam Hege

  2. Dinah Lee Küng said…

    Loved Maria Stuarda. Thanks for the tweet re new mag. I’ll bookmark. Looking forward to the Rigoletto tomorrow with the crazy set tho no Joyce! Maybe you’re hostessing?
    Best wishes,
    DLK
    St-Cergue
    Switzerland

  3. Melinda said…

    Dearest Joyce,

    As usual, you write what I’ve been saying for years: opera snobbery is indeed quite boring. Whenever I introduce someone to opera (and I do this a lot), I always give the advice to “like what you like” and ignore those who tell you “you don’t know anything” or my “favorite” comment: “well she’s ok, but you should have heard so and so in her prime”. Ugh. I had the good fortune to hear a lot of so and so’s over the years and I continue to enjoy their artistry on recordings, but good heavens LIVE IS LIVE AND RIGHT NOW! Opera is indeed still a living art form and I celebrate the current generation of practitioners and look forward to the next!

    I usually prove my point by showing my new opera convert that most of these snobs don’t agree with each other anyway. They are just the same as the rest of us, they like what they like, the difference being that they don’t have the class to shut up about what they don’t like.

    Thank you so much you do beyond singing/acting like a goddess to build the next generation of opera lovers. I’m with ‘ya all the way!

  4. Sophi Baba said…

    My dearest Joyce! How happy & lucky we are to be breathing (& growing) in the same operatic era with you! I totally agree with your plea, and I just smile at those people who tell me how glorious the “previous eras” were with this & that singers/conductors… Opera being a living form of art, of course, each period will come with different sorts of joys & advancements, and I think you really are personally leading the pack in the today’s opera frontlines for the future opera & opera community. Thank you very much for always giving us sense of belonging, even if I had to drop out from becoming a singer, I don’t regret being on the audience side as my proper place, when you are on stage! I really enjoy your presence and will continue to learn as you march on (and we shall march along with you!) Hurray <3 Sophi

  5. Marguerite Foxon said…

    Thanks Joyce for your gentle wisdom and guidance. And for alerting your fans to this opera online magazine. Yes, lets all stay classy! Im for that!
    Marguerite

  6. Ioana said…

    This opera lover promises never to become jaded and thanks you for your tireless, infectious enthusiasm, your “joie gourmande de chanter” (as a French fan beautifully expressed it), for the courage of sharing much of yourself with this sometimes insatiable world. The Juilliard master class was inspiring both for young singers and simple opera fans like me.
    Thank you again for a wonderful Paris concert and toi, toi, toi for Romeo! Keep safe and healthy!

  7. Hannah said…

    Joyce, it is because of singers and people like you that my generation is so completely enamored by opera. Thank you as always for making us youngsters feel welcome and accepted. You are a beacon of light and music and for that we love you!
    Hannah

    • Marie said…

      Hi Joyce,
      this is Marie just to let know that I am Very very poude of you for winning Rossini opera for La Donna del Lago and to let your patner Juan Diego Florez to get better?

  8. Denis Ribeiro said…

    A much-needed and refreshingly well-balanced article addressing the annoying tendency of opera aficionados to be narrow, partisan and bigoted – lacking the ability to be gracefully accepting of differences of opinion, approaches and tastes. Snobbishness of the worst and most virulent kind! Well done Joyce for blasting these out of the water!

  9. Marina said…

    Wise words from a consummate artist. I applaud the move toward innovative productions and bold interpretations of centuries-old repertoire. From my seat in the family circle, I can see more and more mingling of young opera fans among the gray heads (like mine).
    Maria Stuarda was spectacular. And my granddaughter agrees.

  10. Svetlana Gladtsyna said…

    This appeal confirms the statement that you cannot become an opera superstar if you are not intellegent enough and I would say ‘cultured’. Joyce is really smart and brilliant in whatever she is doing. Therefore, she commands love and admiration of younger generation as well. My 12-year-old daughter begged me to allow her to watch a re-run of Maria Stuarda in the movie-theatre in Moscow, where there were lots of people. (She did watch the live transmission too!) I myself couldn’t do so as I was working at that time. But we were quits later that day. I found ‘The Barber of Sevilla” with DiDonato, Florez and Furlanetto on the Net(ROH, I guess, 2009) and made absolutely certain that even a broken foot cannot prevent a real professional from appearing on the stage,doing and singing their best. Joyce made it and there seems to be nothing impossible for her on the stage! Again, Bravo Joyce DiDonato!
    Tonight we saw marvelous Rigoletto-new version, where Damrau, Lucic and Bechala made a stunning perfomance. Looking forward to ‘Aida’re-run and ‘Parsifal’ live and welcome to ‘fresh’ promising stars and new divas next years, although we will also keep adoring those who have already reached the opera Olympian status. And we yearn to watch Di Donato and Florez in the ‘Cinderella’ production next year in HD live transmission too. The more divas like DiDonato and her other colleagues we can watch and hear – the more people will come to opera houses, I am absolutely sure!

  11. Barbara Ann Rockwell said…

    Great advice Joyce! I live in a city full of opera snobs; hope to move soon. I fell in love with opera when my daughter performed in the chorus of her first opera @ 15; Madama Butterfly. Since she didn’t drive; so I drove her to rehersals & they let me sit in the back & observe. I had the privilege of observing the whole procees of putting an opera together from choral rehearsals, to staging to when the principals & conductor arrive (Michael Butterman was the conductor). It was so exciting; I fell in love with the passion, drama & beautiful music & have been a devoted fan since. My daughter now has the education’ BM & MM. After she started following her dream, I took a course in Music apprecitation at the local community college. Now I can’t get enough. You Joyce have done an amazing job of reaching out to people who want to learn & teaching us. I listen to your videos’ regarding the struggling singer, which helps me be supportive of my daughter. I watched your Master Class from Julliard & even took notes ( I am silly). Listening to you speak is so uplifting to a parent. God bless you Joyce for so much marvelous advice. I do hope they stay classy. You are a very classy, amazingly talented, yet down to earth lady with the voice of an angel & the passion to take on any role. I loved you as Cherubino, but nothing could compare to Maria Stuarda. I even thing you could pull off Scarpia. Thanks & God bless.

  12. Cristina G.N said…

    Querida Joyce

    Su presente artículo es un auténtico soplo de frescura y energía en el mundo de la ópera. Una persona de mente abierta como Usted hace que el arte no sea una calle sin salida y no parezca obsoleto y caduco. La ópera al igual que cualquier arte está en constante actualización y el corazón que la mueve debe ser bombeado por los más jóvenes ayudados por las ganas de vivir, la felicidad y la experiencia de grandes personas-cantantes como Usted que con su energía y carisma hace que valga la pena seguir amando la ópera.
    Joyce, nunca he tenido la suerte de escucharla personalmente y menos el conocerla, pero estoy segura que el 8 de marzo va a ser una velada mágica que nunca olvidaré.
    Muchas gracias por tu arte y sencillez.

    Cristina,

  13. Erin said…

    WERD on not becoming a snob, thank you for that. The best opera moments for me (as just a fan, mind you — my vocal chords were apparently destined for better use as a loud and obnoxious trumpet player) have typically been profoundly personal… driving through abysmal Chicago traffic to take my grandma to the Lyric because it’s all she seems to remember these days, being given a shot at conducting the prelude to Act III of La Traviata in non-major orchestra rehearsal in college, learning one of the most beautifully restrained but heroic trumpet lines ever in the overture to Parsifal, being knocked onto my emotional rear-end by Werther — completely against my will, mind you — laughing with my dad at Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd’s take on the Barber of Seville as a kid and being reintroduced to Tosca through the 007 movie Quantum of Solace are all things that astound me in their ability to move me. These have little to do with the tempo the conductor chooses, whether someone sings the alternate cadenza or isn’t known as a valid “interpreter” of whatever composer — if those are really the things that make you passionate about opera, it’s time to find a new hobby.

  14. Norma Ulmer said…

    I have approximately 100 old records 33 1/3 of almost every opera. They are in excellent condition and I was wondering if you could guide me somewhere, where I could sell them. I called some of the antique dealers and collectibles people in my area, but NO ONE IS INTERESTED. I find that very discouraging, since opera never goes out of style. I live in Ft. Lee NJ and if you help me out, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  15. Lucymarie said…

    Hello. I just read your profile article in the October issue of the New Yorker. It was a very interesting piece. I was skeptical that an opera star would keep a blog and so I checked out the site and am pleasantly surprised that it’s real, that you’re as real as the article describes.

    I have to admit I’m not a big opera fan. I’ve been to a few operas but really struggled through Cosi Fan Tutte. I saw that maybe 5 years ago and haven’t been back.

    I think part of the problem is that you guys make it look so easy. And sitting so far back from the stage I can’t see the luxurious costumes and makeup.

    But I’ll check out your site and some of your online stuff (everyone keeps talking about Maria Stuarda. Maybe I’ll start there).
    Maybe it’ll spark an interest in opera that I’ve been missing.

    • Yankeediva said…

      Thank you for your message, Lucymarie! Indeed – I hope you will find more and more joy in the world of opera. To quote my 8-year old step-niece, “It takes me to a whole different, new world!” Cheers!

  16. Marie said…

    Hi joyce,
    I am looking forward to La Cenerentola in HD in local theater company and also Iam Looking forward to see la donna del Lago with you and Juan diego Florez just tell him know to get Better and and eat heath bowl of soup that will make feel better?

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