“The title, the plot, and the posters all place Joyce DiDonato’s character at the heart of the opera, and the mezzo-soprano is, as always, a star — majestically devious, irresistibly charming, and armed with a voice that ranges from intimate to incandescent. She is a generous colleague, too, willing to let Brenda Rae as Poppea and Kate Lindsey as Nero upstage her, confident that the spotlight will eventually swing back where it belongs.”
“DiDonato’s Agrippina is a true villain, but in her hands, it is impossible not to feel compelled and even drawn to her. She seduced, manipulated, terrorized, belittled, flattered, and cajoled every character on stage in order to win and moved about the stage with agility and a fierce nature.
The mezzo displayed a complete sense of control not only with her sense of freedom about the stage, but also in her vocality, particularly whenever tasked to throw around an insane amount of rapid-fire coloratura. Nowhere was this more present than in “L’alma mia fra le tempeste.” If you have heard her recently released recording of the opera, you already know how fluid she is with the coloratura in this particular aria. But the tempo during the live performance seemed almost almost twice as fast with DiDonato taking even greater liberties during the Da Capo; her repetitions of “spera” seemed to offer her some space to prepare for the final flurry that eventually led to an extensive cadenza to cap off a true sign of virtuosity. If you wanted any proof that Agrippina was in charge, this was it.”
“…her tone is vibrant and articulate, with a steely core. And she offers tantalizing glimpses of Agrippina’s doubts. Her posture is ever so slightly stricken after she’s misled Claudius into decrying the faithful Otho as a traitor. Her aria “Pensieri, voi mi tormentate” is a commanding combination of lines dripping fire with floated high wires of sound. Her final moment in the staging, wondering where her venality has finally brought her, shows her hilariously and poignantly unwilling to return to the annals of history — that is, to die.”
The New York Times
“[DiDonato] wheedled, seduced, cajoled, inveigled with a pro’s effortless flair. A practiced Handelian, her command of the florid writing impressed as much as her pungent delivery of yards and yards of recitative.”
Photo credit: Marty Sohl / Met Opera