Joyce ‘soars’ and ‘triumphs’ in La Donna del Lago at The Met

“Opera lovers should sprint to the house to hear Joyce DiDonato’s performance . . .” (New York Classical Review)

Following a thrilling run of the production in Santa Fe, Joyce DiDonato has returned to the title role in Rossini’s La Donna del Lago in its Metropolitan Opera premiere, in a “beguiling” and “astounding” performance. Remaining dates for La Donna del Lago are February 20, 25 & 28, and March 3, 7, 10 & 14:

“For years, the superb mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has sung “Tanti affetti,” the final showpiece aria from Rossini’s “La Donna del Lago” (The Lady of the Lake), as a surefire encore in recitals. But on Monday night on the Metropolitan Opera stage, vocal display seemed the last thing on her mind. Ms. DiDonato, playing the heroine Elena in the Met’s premiere production of this rich, tuneful Rossini melodrama, sang the opening of the aria with melting warmth and tenderness, supported by the sensitive playing of the Met orchestra under Michele Mariotti . . . On Monday, as the subdued first section of the aria began, the wondrous Ms. DiDonato and Mr. Mariotti, the fast-rising young Italian conductor, seemed almost in competition to see who could make music with more delicacy. Ms. DiDonato sang Rossini’s beguiling phrases with soft yet penetrating richness, subtly folding ornaments and runs into the long melodic arcs . . . The aria eventually breaks into joyous bursts of dazzling coloratura passagework, with rousing exclamations from the chorus, and Ms. DiDonato delivered . . .

During two long scenes together, the king falls hopelessly in love. And Ms. DiDonato, singing with glowing sound and affecting sweetness, makes clear that she is, for a moment, romantically aflutter . . . It was good to have the stage so bright for Ms. DiDonato’s triumphant performance of “Tanti affetti.” Besides adding an important Rossini opera to the Met’s repertory, this production gives those who have only heard her sing that aria as an encore a chance to get to know the long opera that precedes it.”

Anthony Tommasini – The New York Times

“Joyce DiDonato emerges triumphant. It doesn’t take much courage to tell the listening public that DiDonato is among the world’s greatest singing actors of any voice type; on Monday she was beyond perfect. Given the opportunity to introduce a major role to the Met’s audience, she gave a performance that may ultimately stand as a high point in her already lofty career. What we heard was one of the world’s best voices in top form—her tone was pure honey, her coloratura effortlessly fluttering, her ornamentation fearless.

The highlights of DiDonato’s performance are too many to list, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the sparkling rondo “Tanti affetti” and the ensuing finale. Her soaring, glowing sound and bursting joy inspired awe, salvaging a happy ending for everyone involved. And she did not settle for mere vocal prettiness, instead tracing a gigantic arc from dutiful innocent to hardened woman, refusing by the end to take any nonsense from anyone . . . opera lovers should sprint to the house to hear Joyce DiDonato’s performance . . .”

Eric C. Simpson – New York Classical Review

“DiDonato Soars in Rossini’s “La Donna del Lago” . . . It is always a special occasion when the Metropolitan Opera stages a premiere and its first production of Rossini’s melodious and stirring La Donna del Lago boasts the exquisite Joyce DiDonato in the title role and Juan Diego Florez as the Scottish king who is captivated by her.

DiDonato, looking very bonny as the red-haired Ellen Douglas, takes control of the evening from her opening aria, a tender and delicate “O mattutini albori,” and by the time of her breathtaking “Tanti affetti” in the grand finale she has scored a major triumph . . . DiDonato manages to make credible drama out of a fairly incredible romantic tale. Vocally she is at the top of her game. Technically a mezzo, her range is such that she can easily take soprano roles and soar. She is also a first-rate actress, convincing both as the maiden in love we first meet and as the reluctant bride-to-be. Her smile alone would melt any king’s heart.”

Wilborn Hampton – Huffington Post

“. . . marveling at Joyce DiDonato surpassing herself in the technical triathlon that is the role of Elena . . . from her first moment, DiDonato went much further, infusing the smallest vocal gesture with great dramatic truth. Though my most cherished memory of DiDonato is her fusion of voice and characterization in Maria Stuarda, some of her more astounding musico-dramatic feats in La Donna del Lago left you thinking, “Did I actually hear that?”

David Patrick Stearns – WQXR

“Joyce DiDonato shines . . . She can sing high and low, loud and soft, and somehow make it all seem natural. She can manage florid runs and agitated climaxes as if they were expressive devices, not just vocal pyrotechnics. She can look sweetly demure, fondling flowers, or awesomely heroic, confronting royalty. She can make a simple gown look elegant, and a small gesture look big. Most important, she can reinforce such achievements with a mezzo-soprano — maybe a soprano sfogato — equally notable for richness and purity. She compelled admiration . . .”

Martin Bernheimer – The Financial Times

“There was plenty of star power in the house for the Metropolitan Opera’s first-ever production of Rossini’s “La Donna del Lago” . . . Ms. DiDonato turned in a resplendent performance, pairing her always spectacular command of pyrotechnics with passages of melting beauty . . . Mr. Flórez . . . and Ms. DiDonato supplied the best moments of the evening in a pair of extended duets, in which their characters are completely at cross-purposes (he loves her, she loves Malcolm). Nonetheless, the two singers displayed a vibrant connection, using every bel canto weapon.”

Heidi Waleson – Wall Street Journal

“The heroine, Elena, is sung by Joyce DiDonato, whose voice here has extraordinary range and displays the most subtle attention to colour and detail. . . DiDonato has a way of attending to each nuance of the score and also the drama itself — her plight as the one who is desired — which makes you listen to her singing with fierce attention and delight. That this happens both in the great arias and in the duller sequences is a tribute to her command . . . DiDonato, Florez and Barcellona take the parts written for them and make them personal, as though the opera were created precisely for their particular vocal talents and ranges of expression . . . what matters to the composer, it seems, is the singing. More than the drama, or the story, or the setting, Rossini wrote so that three or four great singers could display their talent. In casting DiDonato, Florez and Barcellona, the Met has managed to resurrect this opera and do justice to these great parts.”

Colm Tóibín – The Spectator

“The proof is in the singing, of course; this is Rossini. Joyce DiDonato remains a paragon of taste and artistry in this type of music, and she even emotes enough to make us care about poor Elena, who has three boyfriends and a father she’s trying not to offend. The fireworks are gentle at first, with small embellishments to Elena’s aubade, and they become more expressive and impressive as the evening progresses, ending with a staggering, one-of-a-kind “Tanti affetti” . . . it’s a performance that should not be missed . . . This is a great show to listen to.”

Robert Levine – Bachtrack.com

“Joyce DiDonato Is the Best Thing in the Met’s New La donna del lago . . . DiDonato belongs to that elite club of performing artists who get ovations simply for stepping onstage, before they’ve even uttered a sound. Then she proceeds to earn the applause. Witnessing DiDonato sing, you sense that she has no fear and no desire to be anywhere but in that scene, letting her voice leap, soar, plummet, and ricochet. Notes fly from her throat like tiny baseballs from a hyperactive pitching machine, landing exactly where she aims. Her timbre stays constant as she glides to the top of her range and down again, or hops nonchalantly from a murmur to a blast and back. This technical ease is a tool, not a goal, though, and she puts it at the service of the score, so that you don’t have to hack through a crust of mannerisms and ego to get at the music. If DiDonato has a weakness, it’s that she makes a character’s helplessness or desperation hard to believe. Anyone who can sing like that must surely have her life under control.

So long as DiDonato is Elena, she could be wearing a hospital gown and singing on a totally barren stage and she would still turn La donna del lago into her own beguiling spectacle . . . Rossini, almost alone in the history of opera, infused even his tragic scores with bubbling, volcanic joy, expressed in galloping rhythms, oomp-chuck accompaniments, and melodies that go twirling through the hall like Roman candles. DiDonato shares that glee. Her gloomiest moments contain within them the sheer euphoria of singing . . . just before the curtain comes down, it’s DiDonato, tossing out vocal sparklers and high-note confetti, who gets the final word: felicità.

Justin Davidson – Vulture

“DiDonato not only sings beautifully but acts with feeling. She starts the first act with the lovely “O mattutini albori” and ends the opera with trills galore in “Tanti affetti” . . . If you like bel canto, then you won’t want to miss DiDonato . . .”

Barry Bassis – Epoch Times

“As Elena, DiDonato is vulnerable and gentle. Her delivery of the opening and closing arias brought some unique contrasts that emphasized the character’s evolution from a state of loneliness and longing to one of utter joy. In the latter, “Tanti affetti,” her voice soared with ecstatic coloratura runs that pushed her voice to its aural extreme. This contrasted greatly with the gentler and elastic phrasing of Elena’s opening solo. Of course, DiDonato’s heroine was not simply a damsel in distress throughout and showed a ferociousness in her singing during the opera’s climactic trio in act 2.”

David Salazar – Latin Post

“I have not yet mentioned the star of the show, the mezzo singing Elena, Joyce DiDonato. Frankly, I am out of words. Also frankly, I’m sick of saying “I am out of words.” For the last ten years, I have written more about Joyce DiDonato than I have to my own mother. I first heard her in the negligible role of Stéphano, in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. I was floored. I have had no reason to get off the floor since . . .

I should not say nothing about her Elena, so I will say something—just one thing. I have heard her sing “Tanti affetti” several times. But I had never heard her sing it in the context of the opera. She acts the thing, too. It’s enough to sing it—but she actually acts it, and affectingly. Holy mackerel.”

Jay Nordlinger – The New Criterion

“. . . Ms. DiDonato crafted an almost infinite variety of vocal effects, from a serenely limpid legato in her entrance cavatina to demure trills and turns in her love duets with Uberto. At last, in the closing rondo “Tanti affetti,” she flung out increasingly intricate coloratura, every note precisely tuned and every rhythm dancing with energy. Yet the affect she projected was not manic glee but rather a kind of rapt wonder, as if Elena has only begun to believe in her happy ending . . . what she offers is something much more important than perfection: She gives us beauty.”

James Jorden – The Observer

“La Donna del Lago . . . lifted by the dazzling singing of Joyce DiDonato . . . “Donna” has been drifting center stage in major cities all over the world, thanks in large part to DiDonato with her stupendous coloratura technique . . .  DiDonato’s charm shined across the stage. The most famous aria of the piece is Elena’s ear-dazzling final rondo, “Tanti Affetti.” She dispatched it with a smile.”

Manuela Hoelterhoff – Bloomberg Business

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