Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato’s latest project In War and Peace is a highly personal one. It involves the inevitable CD and attendant concert tour, and we caught her performance at the Barbican on Wednesday 22 November 2016. Yet the event was more than just a concert, it was theatrical event which DiDonato intended to make us think, to address the question ‘In the midst of chaos, how do we find peace’ Joyce DiDonato, accompanied by Il Pomo d’Oro directed from the harpsichord by Maxim Emelyanychev, sang arias from Handel’s Jephtha, Agrippina, Rinaldo, Susanna and Giulio Cesare, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and The Indian Queen, plus arias from Leo’s Andromaca, and Jommelli’s Attilio Regolo, and the orchestra played music by Gesualdo and Arvo Pärt.
Directed by Ralf Pleger with lighting by Henning Blum and video by Yousef Iskandar, this was a dramatic event rather than a simple concert, and DiDonato was joined by dancer/choreographer Manuel Palazzo, and the striking costumes were by Vivienne Westwood. Joyce DiDonato was on stage throughout, when the audience entered she was sitting on a raised podium towards the rear of the stage and retired there at various points. Singing the whole programme from memory, she used movement, lighting, video, gesture and choreography to bring out the drama in the individual arias. There were instrumental moments too, when Manuel Palazzo’s dancing came to the fore.
Read the entire review via Planet Hugill