About the album

IN WAR & PEACE – HARMONY THROUGH MUSIC

Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano
Il Pomo d’Oro
Maxim Emelyanychev, harpsichord & direction

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

– VIKTOR FRANKL, author and psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor

*Gramophone 2017 Winner – Recital of the Year

*NPR Top 100 Songs of 2016: “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Handel)

*ClassicFM Top 20 Classical Albums of 2016

*iTunes Best of 2016: Classical Recordings

*Opera News: Critic’s Choice

*MusicWeb International: Recording of the Month

#TalkPeace

Track Listing

WAR

1. Handel Scenes of horror, scenes of woe  5:13
2. Leo Prendi quel ferro, o barbaro!  7:16 *
3. Handel Svegliatevi nel core  4:47
4. Purcell They tell us that you mighty powers above  4:05
5. Handel Pensieri, voi mi tormentate  6:44
6. Purcell When I am laid in earth  5:03
7. Handel Lascia ch’io pianga  5:32

PEACE

8.  Purcell Oh! lead me to some peaceful gloom  3:17
9.   Handel Augelletti, che cantate  5:36
10.  Jommelli Sprezza il furor del vento  7:13 *
11.  Purcell Why should men quarrel  1:31
12. Jommelli Par che di giubilo  6:09 *
13. Handel Crystal streams in murmurs flowing  8:21
14. Monteverdi Illustratevi, o cieli  2:20
15. Handel Da tempeste il legno infranto  6:02

* world premiere recording

Reviews

“Joyce DiDonato’s latest recital disc looks at war and peace in Baroque opera … In the company of Il Pomo d’Oro, conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev, DiDonato kicks up a storm in the war arias and soothes the spirit with lambent tone when she turns to peace.

The American mezzo is at the peak of her career. This disc is worth hearing for her radiant singing in Handel’s Susanna alone.” (Financial Times)

“The exhilaratingly fine new release from mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato arrives with a freakish sense of timeliness. Drawing on the Baroque masters — chiefly Purcell and Handel, with a few ringers thrown in — DiDonato has assembled a collection of arias based on themes of war and peace, and together with the period-instrument assemble Il Pomo d’Oro, she delivers them with all the dramatic fervor and tonal luster she commands … And although the repertoire appears at first to be neatly bisected, with fiery military numbers giving way to more placid selections, the truth is far subtler — war and peace reveal themselves here to be closely intertwined. DiDonato’s singing, with its blend of fiery extravagance and expressive intimacy, does as much as anything to drive the point home.” (SFGate)

“Writing in 1916, Yeats spoke of ‘Art whose end is peace’. Now, 100 turbulent years later, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato returns to the question of how to find consolation and quiet in an increasingly disordered world. She too finds her answer in art – ‘a valiant path to peace’, as she writes in her introduction to an album that is as much a personal manifesto as a recital.

Returning to the repertoire where it all began, ‘In War & Peace’ finds DiDonato back on Baroque ground for the first time in a while, and it’s a joyful musical homecoming. The risks are bigger, the dramatic stakes higher than in ‘Drama Queens’ (1/13) – it’s as if she and the musicians of Il Pomo d’Oro are playing an elaborate game of chicken, each daring the other to spin a quieter, more fragile pianissimo, or to ornament a da capo with more ferocious brilliance.

Arranging her programme into two halves – ‘War’ and ‘Peace’ – DiDonato makes it clear that this is no straightforward binary. Fleeting moments of stillness and beauty are found even in war (‘They tell us that you mighty powers’, ‘When I am laid in earth’), while peace can be extrovert and full of joy (‘Da tempeste’) or merely an illusion, created only to be threatened by kidnap or rape (Susanna’s ‘Crystal streams in murmurs flowing’, exquisitely shaped, or ‘Augelletti che cantate’).

Roaming freely between alto and soprano roles, DiDonato once again demonstrates the flexibility of a voice capable of finding both the innocent simplicity of an Almirena and the mature emotions of Dido or Monteverdi’s Penelope – ‘Illustratevi o cieli’, the queen’s long-delayed release into aria, radiates hard-won contentment. Best, however, are the more demonstrative arias: Cleopatra’s irrepressible ‘Da tempeste’, Maxim Emelyanychev’s band strumming their accompaniment like a giant guitar; Leo’s explosive ‘Prendi quel ferro’, the pick of the three fine arias by Leo and Jommelli receiving their premiere recordings here.

Drama, as ever with DiDonato, is everything. Ornamentation serves narrative first, ego second, reduced to almost nothing in ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ for fear of overbalancing the sincerity of this plea for freedom, but turned up high in Jommelli’s ‘Par che di giubilo’.” (Gramophone Magazine)

“A self-described “belligerent optimist,” opera star Joyce DiDonato is pinning a lot of hope on her new album, “In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music.”

Shaken by a world of increasing conflict, DiDonato asks in the album booklet, “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” She cites responses from a wide variety of people, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Sing Sing inmate named Joe Wilson. (She also urges a discussion via the social media hashtag #TalkPeace.) But DiDonato also provides some answers herself with this recording of Baroque music, divided between arias depicting hostility and those devoted to serenity.

In the first half, her characters sing of revenge, fear and the frustrating battles fought inside troubled minds. In fine voice, if a little overdressed in reverb, DiDonato channels anguish particularly well, especially in the music of Handel, which dominates the album. In his slow and well-known lament “Lascia ch’io pianga,” she washes just enough color out of her voice to achieve a purity that enhances the composer’s signature formula of gut-wrenching despair set to music of extraordinary beauty.

DiDonato also can rage with the best, hurling words like knives in an aria from Leonardo Leo’s long-forgotten “Andromaca.” Near the end, she depicts a swirl of conflicting emotions — ferocity, dread and a mother’s tender love — on the single word “ancor.”

The album’s second half spotlights peaceful gardens, outbursts of joy and lovers who “never think of war again.” DiDonato unleashes some of the most rousing coloratura singing of her recorded career in two virtuoso arias (never before recorded) by the neglected Neapolitan Niccolo Jommelli. The driving pulse in “Par che di giubilo,” infectiously rendered by her backing ensemble, Il Pomo d’Oro, underscores such lines as “My soul seems delirious with joy,” sung with uncommon speed, precision and a beaming smile in the voice. In “Sprezza il furor del veto,” she’s a “sturdy oak,” unbending to a constant flurry of stratospheric runs and trills. The voice is completely engaged in the emotional and technical content without resorting to aspirating or scooping up to notes.” (Washington Post)

“The result of this concept-CD stands out precisely where the two levels of War and Peace intertwine. In the midst of war, man can yearn for pacification, and when peace wins, the victory over the war is all the more stormy. This is exactly what the singing of DiDonato makes clear. She is an expressionist in the best sense, who can effortlessly develop an occupying dramatic presence …”

{Das Ergebnis dieser Konzept-CD besticht gerade dort, wo sich die beiden Ebenen Krieg und Frieden verzahnen. Mitten im Krieg kann sich der Mensch nach Befriedung sehnen, und wenn der Frieden gewinnt, fällt der Sieg über den Krieg umso stürmischer aus. Genau dies macht der Gesang von DiDonato exemplarisch hörbar. Sie ist eine Ausdruckssängerin im besten Sinn, der es mühelos gelingt, eine einnehmende dramatische Präsenz zu entwickeln …} (Abendzeitung)

“★★★★★ – Kansas diva argues an eloquent case for making peace not war. Mezzo-soprano superstar Joyce DiDonato’s latest album of Baroque opera arias started life as a project to bring to light some Neapolitan rarities, but it took a swift hairpin turn in November last year following the brutal terror attacks in Paris. The Kansas diva and the crack Il Pomo d’Oro under their exciting young Russian Chief Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev ditched the programme and came up with a selection of “war and peace” arias, all of them sending a strong message in troubled times. “As I have tried to convey in this selection of music, the power to bravely tip the scales towards peace lies firmly within every single one of us,” DiDonato says …

The singing is magnificent – at 47, DiDonato’s voice is at its very peak – the diction is exemplary and the playing of the Italians is simply to die for. This recital is probably her most personal project to date and represents one of the most eloquent and moving pleas for peace in a long time.”

Steve Moffatt – Limelight Magazine

“In the notes accompanying this spectacular CD, mezzo Joyce DiDonato asks, “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” She goes for answers–and gets them–from a baritone who was a Freedom Combat Victim, as well as from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a prisoner in Sing Sing, an 8-year old refugee, Alfred Brendel, Judi Dench, and many more. DiDonato manages not to sound holier-than-thou in this introduction, and a discussion of Baroque opera and how it tended to be a battlefield between good and evil follows. Examples are “When I am laid in earth” for the grief of war, and Cleopatra’s “Da tempeste…” showing the Queen exulting in the possibility of peace …

if I had to compare, I’d say she’s on a par with Janet Baker. Another thing she has in common with Dame Janet are the various degrees of piano/pianissimo she can render, at every vocal height or depth, with or without vibrato, and always as a reading off the text and in the most musical of ways. Of course she shows off–you can only listen agape to the maniacal pinpoint staccatos up and down the staff, and to the superb trills in mid-line in Jommelli’s “Per che di giubilo”, every one of them right on, rhythmically flawless and an expression of sheer joy.

That type of virtuosity aside–and it by no means should be put aside–perhaps the most staggering moments on this CD are two in the war section: Dido’s Lament and the following “Lascia ch’io pianga”. Here are 10 minutes of the most beautiful and sensitive–and emotionally very different–expressions of sadness on disc. Yes, the feelings are in the music and we’ve all heard both selections gorgeously sung, but here DiDonato’s coloristic abilities make each character’s anguish utterly real. Dido dies in front of us.

The CD’s opening track, “Scenes of horror, scenes of woe”, might be performed by another singer–a Cassandra type of revulsion and terror are brought to the fore through chest voice and fierce fortes. Aggrippina’s “Pensieri” might not seem to be in place here, but her plotting is warlike, and you have only to hear the opening, straight-toned, vibratoless note to realize the cruelty and ambition. (Il Pomo d’Oro’s oboist should be commended here as well!)

Even were there no “programme” per se, this would be a worthy, in fact stunning achievement. Maxim Emelyanychev leads Il Pomo d’Oro with verve, compassion, and tone that ranges from vicious to caressing depending on the situation. And the last two tracks–Penelope’s quiet joy near the close of Monteverdi’s Ulisse, and Cleopatra’s “Da tempeste” leave us elated. Just buy this.”

Robert Levine – Classics Today

Videos

In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?

In War & Peace – Behind the scenes

Album info

Release date: November 4, 2016
Number of Discs: 1
Format: Studio
Label: Erato
ASIN: B01J4P3XIC

6 hours ago

Is it too biased if I also highly recommend it? 🤗 #ticketalert https://t.co/AgREWELwpx

20 hours ago

I am touched to receive the award for Best Female Singer 2019 as part of the Oper! Awards. This Opera Family is som… https://t.co/LmHpvHqd3c

21 Sep

RT @AskonasHolt: Inspiring words from @JoyceDiDonato on #InternationalDayofPeace #TalkPeace 📸 © Brooke Shaden / @brookeshaden https://t.c

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I am truly touched to receive the award for Best Female Singer 2019 as part of the inaugural Oper! Awards. This Opera Family is something I treasure deeply, and to join in such a wonderful celebration together as we forge our way forward into the 21st Century is something that inspires me deeply! Onwards and upwards, and sincere congratulations to all the honorees! ✨ ▶︎ www.oper-awards.com 📷 @chrissingerme

#Repost @royaloperahouse with @get_repost ・・・ Handel with care Not long now until Handel’s Agrippina opens on the Main Stage! Starring Joyce DiDonato in the title role, the opera is considered Handel's first operatic masterpiece. When it premiered in 1709 it proved an immediate success and an unprecedented series of 27 consecutive performances followed. This production is brought to life with characteristic invention by director Barrie Kosky. Agrippina opens on Monday - head to our website to book tickets now!

Day 4 of our 8-Days-In-A-Row Rehearsal Marathon to bring #Agrippina to London’s @royaloperahouse in all her glory? ✔️ No question: she is something else!!!! #absolutepowercorruptsabsolutely

I am thrilled to have been named “Female Singer of the Year” for my new album “Songplay". This album holds a very special place in my heart and we had an absolute blast recording it. Huge thank you to @opusklassik for this honor and congratulations to all the other award recipients. I’m so proud to be a part of the classical music family which aims to bring beauty, truth, and reflection into the world. The official ceremony will take place at @konzerthausberlin on October 13th and will be broadcast on ZDF. 🎧 Listen to the Opus Klassik Winners 2019 playlist on @idagioofficial: https://app.idagio.com/playlists/opus-klassik-winners-2019 • 📷 @chrissingerme • Styling: @vitatzykun • Art direction: @catecool • 💎 @tamsenz • 💄 @glowbyaffan • @warner_classics @warnerclassicsus @craigterrypiano #songplay #craigterry @hotlipsporter @lautaro_greco #chuckisraels #jimmymadison #playwiththatsong #yougottalovetobeabletoplay #withasonginmyheart #mezzosoprano #joycedidonato #musicislife #musiciansofinstagram #womenartists

I am so happy to make my debut in Romania this afternoon and sing a concert at the prestigious George Enescu Festival. I hope you can all join us at the gorgeous Romanian Athenaeum. @enescu_festival Photo: @simon.pauly • #georgeenescufestival #athenaeum #mezzosoprano #operasingersofinstagram #tourlife #musiciansofinstagram #musicislife #haydn #mozart #bellini #berlioz #rossini #hahn #pabloluna #recital #operalife #womenartists #instamusic #instaclassical #musicislife #mezzosrock #artistsoninstagram

Hey @nyo.usa - missing you all, so sporting my @converse sneaks in solidarity!!!! Such a WONDERFUL experience performing with each of you on tour! When we meet again on the concert stages of the world, please come say HELLO!!!!! In the meantime, go conquer this next year of your training and your LIFE!!!!! #standingovation to y’all!!!! Xoxoxo

LIVE from the @elbphilharmonie on @medici.tv!!! 🔗 http://bit.ly/LesNuitsdEte-Elbphilharmonie. Please join me, Maestro #antoniopappano and the extraordinary, life-affirming #NYOUSA orchestra for the conclusion of our incredibly memorable tour! (Or If you’re in Hamburg, head down to the hall to watch live on the open-air screen for free!) I promise, you will feel uplifted, inspired, and full of hope by watching these extraordinary young musicians!!! • • “When Joyce DiDonato was singing Le spectre de la rose from Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été — her voice so tender, so poignant, so full of meaning — it really was hard to imagine anything more perfect. [...] DiDonato made it human and transcendent.” - The Times • • 📷 @chrisleephotonyc @carnegiehall #berlioz #lesnuitsdete #joycedidonato #musiciansofinstagram #instaclassical #livestream #musicislife #tourlife

My heart...thank you, @bbc_proms and all the gorgeous #Prommers and the gorgeous @royalalberthall and you gorgeous #London audiences! I was very proud today to stand alongside the incredible musicians of the #nyousa orchestra bringing #Berlioz to life. Such a beautiful souvenir!!!

Can’t think of a more gorgeous way to wake up on this Sunny London Morning than to join the divine #NYOUSA in Berlioz’s *sublime* Les nuits d’été, LIVE at the @bbc_proms. You can join us LIVE to listen on @bbcradio3! It is a complete joy to share the stage with these incredible musicians. Photo: the divine @chrisleephotonyc

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

~ Joyce DiDonato