“You will never make it … “It” doesn’t exist for an artist. The work will never end… It will always be there for you — even if in some moments you lack the will to be there for it. All it asks is that you show up, fully present. It’s not about you … You may not yet realize it, but you haven’t signed up for a life of glory and adulation. The world needs you … We need you to help us understand that which is bigger than ourselves, so that we can stop feeling so small, so isolated, so helpless.”
So, that was 2016 … ! I’ve always loved looking back at a recently closed chapter in my life, analyzing it to learn what worked well (and what didn’t), appreciating it for what it was, and setting up my game plan for the next adventure. While this past year has been an astonishing one for me in many ways, I have to ask: is anyone else out there happy to usher this particular 365-day cycle out the door? I thought so. So, that means THIS is the moment for us to decide HOW we want to open the door to the next cycle. More
This past week, Cal Performances featured Grammy-winning Joyce DiDonato at UC Berkeley. The mezzo-soprano vocalist, who has been called, “the most potent female singer of her generation,” by The New Yorker, collaborated with the Italian instrumental ensemble Il D’Oro. However, this wasn’t an ordinary performance.
It’s 16 November, 2015: I am seated at my father’s old piano in tranquil, uneventful Kansas City, Missouri, with a pile of 60 obscure Neapolitan arias. I’m researching music for my new album, music by composers such as Niccolò Jomelli and Leonardo Leo, who wrote in a post-classical, pre-bel canto world that is sorely underrepresented today on recordings and concert platforms. My task is to select 10 of these obscure arias to feature on my album and perform on a world tour.
Just the day before I had been in glossy Dallas, Texas singing the final emotion-filled performance of a new opera written for me by Jake Heggie titled Great Scott, which asks the pressing question,
Tonight is the opening of “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” here in Zurich. It is a role that I feel and love very deeply, and the opportunity to bring him to life, set to Bellini’s exquisitely well crafted vocal lines, fills me with tremendous gratitude. (I’ve written about my passion for him before.)
It tells the familiar story of Romeo and Juliet: the story we know well, masterfully told by Shakespeare, read aloud in countless sophomore literature classes, endlessly danced to (by yours truly, at least) in Bernstein’s version, retold and remade in numerous cultures and epochs – always breaking our hearts in the end.
Bellini’s version hails from later Italian sources, and as the title indicates, throws the emphasis squarely on the shoulders of these two warring families. This is undeniably an opera about war. Here there is no love duet between the two: they fight in every scene, even in death, never finding peace – even as harmonious thirds in the music ache for them to find each other. After the deaths, the warring families rush the stage and we see how the cycle will inevitably continue.
During the flurry of my insanely bizarre and wonderful fall schedule, I received a request from the Mu Phi Chapter at Radford University in Virginia, asking for some words of encouragement. As a proud Mu Phi Alum, it took me a few weeks to respond, but I managed to get a few thoughts down onto “paper” while speeding across Europe on a high speed train. It’s not my most eloquent writing, but it captured that particular moment in time where my brain was buzzing with the desire to impart some, eh hem, wisdom, words of encouragement, and perhaps even so much as empowering them to get fierce about their paths! More
Chairman Kovner, President Polisi, most distinguished honorees, dedicated family, friends, faculty, and to EACH of the talented, ambitious, courageous, adventurous Juilliard graduates of the class of 2014 before us here today, thank you! More
I’m not a fan of silence. Wait. Allow me, please, to clarify: I’ll take contemplative silence whenever I can, or the silence that comes from crisp mountain air or the hush that befalls your heart when gazing up at the galaxy of stars on a moonless night. Oh, I love that kind of silence. But silence in the face of oppression? Nope. Not a fan. Never have been. Can’t imagine I ever will be. That doesn’t mean that I always know how to speak up, that I always do speak up, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I always know the most effective way to speak up in order to actually invite people to listen, and then – under the best of circumstances – perhaps to actually feel the call to action. No. I’m not an expert in any of those areas. More
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.
From Mary’s last letter to her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England:
“Accuse me not of presumption if, leaving this world and preparing myself for a better, I remind you will one day to give account of your charge, in like manner as those who preceded you in it, and that my blood and the misery of my country will be remembered, wherefor from the earliest dawn of your comprehension we ought to dispose our minds to make things temporal yield to those of eternity.
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
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!
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!