Concert Reviews

Joyce DiDonato brings “something completely original” to Carnegie Hall with ‘In War & Peace’

Opera News
by David Shengold
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Joyce DiDonato has been a regular visitor to Carnegie Hall for some seasons now. On December 15, the industrious and remarkably thoughtful mezzo-soprano brought something completely original to the august hall’s stage. In War and Peace: Harmony Through Music marked a curated theatrical presentation blending vocal and instrumental music with dance, design, fashion, video imagery and what might be termed either politics or philosophy.

The evening’s title was the same as DiDonato’s recent Erato CD with Maxim Emelyanychev and the dynamic early music band Il Pomo d’Oro; the Carnegie Hall performance marked the last scheduled U.S. stop of an international series of concerts “touring behind the album,” as one says of pop singers …

For some in the New York audience, doubtless just the excellent music making would have sufficed. But DiDonato has long given thought to expanding the audience for classical music. She has been an industry leader in the non-trivial use of social media to widen her base of hearers, and has begun to shape projects like this one that might spark off those more drawn to theatrical and visual narrative than to opera. The discourse generated by this concert tour—online, on the cards DiDonato had placed in every program, and what she said in addressing the crowd at curtain calls—concerned the now-more-than ever-poignant question: what do you/we do to find peace? For DiDonato, it is via the expressiveness of music; hence, her  program exploring musical treatments of war and its absence. The classical music industry tends toward an apolitical and blasé disinvolvement: few opera singers would have the guts to bring such an emotionally exposed project before the “industry” public that Carnegie perforce attracts, but every aspect of the evening bespoke DiDonato’s courage. The mezzo and Emelyanchev‘s splendidly alert forces were well rewarded by the crowd’s roars.

The concert’s substance was mainly Handel and Purcell, though we also heard two bravura arias given world premières on the new CD. The “War” portion, starting starkly with Jephtha’s vehement “Scenes of horror,” affirmed how remarkably and subtly DiDonato “speaks” and colors Handelian phrasing in both English and Italian. Leonardo Leo’s fiery “Prendi quel ferro!” from L’Andromaca (1742) dazzled the audience before things turned more melancholy—and perhaps musically richer—with deeply expressive versions of Dido’s “When I am laid in earth,” Agrippina’s extremely tricky “Pensieri” and the iconic “Lascia ch’io pianga,” a real stop-time moment. The evening’s “Peace” portion began with a restrained amatory prayer from The Indian Queen before DiDonato moved on to more Handel. In my view, 24/7 broadcasting of DiDonato’s ravishing traversal of Susanna’s “Crystal streams” might bring peace. On to Cleopatra’s rejoicing “Da tempeste,” with fascinating ornamentation. As lead-in to Rinaldo’s bucolic “Augelletti, che cantate”, Palazzo playfully coaxed the tall Anna Fusek from the second violin section to play the aria’s avian recorder obbligato with fantastic tone and control. DiDonato answered her with radiant tone and equally precise staccatos. The musicians then swept into a total diva display vehicle the mezzo milked for self-mockery, “Par che di giubilo” from Nicolò Jommelli’s 1758 Attilio Regolo. This swaggering aria served as the first encore; but the mezzo used Richard Strauss’ quiet “Morgen!”—with Baroque concertmaster Edson Scheid in engaging support—to end the evening on a note of shimmering hope … breathtaking music making by DiDonato and Il Pomo d’Oro …”

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Toi Toi Toi you gorgeous artists and heavenly theater folks!!!! https://t.co/6kfhATZiPg

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I’m going to need video. (And tell your students to sing out! 🤩) https://t.co/6vUYDquuNE

18 Sep

It only counts if I see the photos! :-) https://t.co/YQi4vlOC5r

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Well, if it’s not a “Two Widows” Reunion!!!!! @operabrandon, what a joy to share the stage with you again after tw%#*y years! And here I am again, a W2BW! (Widow To Be Wooed) Bonus points for anyone who actually attended our *historic* performances in Smetna’s underperformed opera way back in 1998 in #Chautauqua!!! #Chautauqua2Carthage #Smetna2Berlioz #HappilyEverAfter2TotalDestruction

I could not be happier or more excited that our wonderful album of Les Troyens has been named “Recording of the Year” at tonight’s Gramophone Award ceremony. Thank you to the visionary and magical music-making of John Nelson, my fabulous cast members and to @warner_classics for in believing in this project. It has been a pleasure and an extreme privilege to be a part of it. THANK YOU!!! Viva Les Troyens and viva #Berlioz.

Tune in to Great Performances | PBS to watch @metopera #Cendrillon broadcast at 12PM ET today! ✨👠👸 Photo: Paola Kudacki / Met Opera #greatperformancespbs

What a perfect, beautiful, timely moment to embrace a fairy tale: don’t miss the Metropolitan Opera's heralded production of “Cendrillon” on @PBS Great Performances! Bask in the beautiful French melodies of Massenet. Laugh at the charming staging. Marvel at the gorgeous costumes. Revel in the soaring vocal lines of our brilliant cast. I’ve spent over 20 treasured years with Cinderella, and I’d love to share this final trip to the palace with you! @metopera @alice.coote @sblythe327 @sop_kathleen_kim #laurentnaouri @metoperachorus @metorchestra #bertranddebilly #laurentpelly

Happy Friday, everyone! I wanted to start the weekend with something special that I hope you’ll enjoy! In celebration of the release of my new album “Into the fire” featuring Jake Heggie’s profound song cycle about Camille Claudel, I created this playlist featuring some of my favorite tracks of Jake’s music. 🎧 Link in bio. He is not only a dear friend, he also captures human emotions so beautifully in this writing and I am always stunned by his sheer abundance of music ideas, languages and styles. I have been fortunate enough to sing a lot of his music throughout my career and I have so many beautiful memories of each and every one of his works I performed. I will never forget the profound impact on everyone in the cast and in the audience for each performance of “Dead Man Walking” and the wonderful humanity and insight into the life of a performer in “Great Scott”. Jake’s songs are part of almost every recital I give and I hope to be able to share how special his music is, via this playlist I created for all of you! @warner_classics @applemusic

I’m in LOVE with performing #Berlioz with @monteverdi_choir_orchestras (#ORR). Add into the mix performing at the @bbc_proms and I’m positively done. My personal recommendation is that you tune in tonight for a rousing listen on @bbcradio3!!! #colormelucky #tragicdeathxtwo #berliozrocksmyworld

Thank you #Hamburg and the stunning @elbphilharmonie for such a warm welcome last night. Congratulations on the start of another stunning season. An even warmer debt of gratitude for the stunning Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique and Sir John Eliot Gardiner for divine, powerful music making. Cléopâtre has never suffered such a brutal death!! Look out, #London: you’re next!! @bbc_proms

Hello from Hamburg! I am thrilled to start the 2018/19 season with two concerts conducted by the legendary Sir John Eliot Gardiner​ and his Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, tonight at @elbphilharmonie Hamburg and on September 5 at the @bbc_proms in London. I will sing Didon’s death scene from Les Troyens and La mort de Cléopâtre. The next two months are all about #Berlioz for me and I could not be more excited to sing this gorgeous music. 📻 Our concert at the @royalalberthall on September 5 will also receive a live broadcast on @bbcradio3. I hope you all had a spectacular summer. I am very excited to start this new season and I look forward to seeing you at one of my performances! Photo: @chrissingerme

#shattered #glass #beautyinthebroken #geometry #viennaairport #timetofly #aspsawait @bbc_proms #hereicome #queencleo #speakingofshattered ...... 😎💋😎

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

~ Joyce DiDonato