Semiramide: Royal Opera House
Grand opera in grand style, with the grandest of divas, Joyce DiDonato.
Semiramide: Royal Opera House
There was a time when record labels regularly lavished huge budgets on complete opera recordings. Not so anymore: Declining revenues have meant less money to spend on these prestige projects. So kudos to Warner Classics’ Erato label for its recent release of Hector Berlioz’s massive “Les Troyens,” featuring a huge cast that includes Kansas City’s own Joyce DiDonato.
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 …
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was inspired by the 2015 Paris attacks to record this album of Baroque opera arias on the subject of war and peace. DiDonato told us she wanted to “bring an album into the world that reminds us of the best of humanity. Nobody represents this better in music better than Purcell and Handel… From the internal chaos of Agrippina to the deep sense of loss of Dido”.
“The Conference of the Birds” is a delicious naturalistic work composed by Jonathan Sheffer and narrated by the renowned American soprano Joyce DiDonato) . . . The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the composer and recorded on June 2015, in the Reduta Hall in Olomouc (a theater in 1770) of the Czech Republic, is a very original work, a beautiful story narrated by the great American soprano Joyce DiDonato.
“Joyce and Tony” they may be to Erato. To the rest of us they are mezzo Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano, the Royal Opera’s music director, moonlighting here as accompanist.
Their recital at Wigmore Hall a year ago was hugely enjoyable. In this live recording it sounds even better. Was DiDonato really so gripping in Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos, so lambently beautiful of tone in rare songs by Francesco Santoliquido?
Did the two of them seduce the audience so ravishingly in their all-American hits by Jerome Kern and others? What a sublime encore to hear it all again.”
Richard Fairman – Financial Times
The centrepiece of this exhilarating disc, themed loosely around music by Haydn and Mozart written between 1777 and 1786, is the latter’s Piano Concerto No 9 in E flat K271, known as the “Jeunehomme”, a play on the name of the original pianist, Victoire Jenamy, for whom it was written. The song-like quality of the slow movement prompted Alexandre Tharaud to programme the concert aria Ch’io mi scordi di te? alongside it, gratefully and gracefully sung by Joyce DiDonato.
Sep 14, 2014 | Recording Reviews | No Comments
“To be a top classical singer you have to have a lot. But Joyce DiDonato is different: she’s got it all. Fantastic voice, striking looks, a rigorous work ethic, a respect for her audience, and a desire to smother them with love.
Vocally she’s the best mezzo currently active. She has a terrific stage presence, with impeccable dress sense. She takes as much trouble over her appearance as she does over her singing – and quite right too. She works and works and works not just to keep her voicein good shape but to learn fresh stuff.
The staging is gripping from beginning to end, thanks to committed acting all around . . . But this is Joyce DiDonato’s show, in a role she has made very much her own. She dominates each scene she is in, with phrase after perfectly placed phrase going straight to the heart.