“Scheming Agrippina (the magnificent American mezzo Joyce DiDonato) swept onto the platform with imperial authority, rarely resorting to score or lectern. For the most part, her spectacles were pointed threateningly at her perceived adversaries, or flicked playfully at the band to pause in the music, or as if to grant them permission to play on. DiDonato is one of, if not the greatest mezzo soprano singing today. She has the rarest beauty of tone, and an exceptional range and flexibility of voice. She has another precious gift – the ability to switch quickly and convincingly from cynical comedienne to tragedienne. The great aria ‘Pensieri voi mi tormentarti’ for instance, in which Agrippina, in Act II, calls on the Gods for help with her treacherous enterprise to promote her son, was delivered with spine-chilling intensity: DiDonato’s voluptuously rich voice intertwining perfectly with a sinuous oboe obbligato.”
“There probably isn’t a more technically accomplished mezzo than DiDonato currently on the planet. The voice is so completely solid: she can move between near-whispered pianissimo to Met-Opera-House-filling thunder at any point in her range or while shifting rapidly through it, at slow-breathed legato or quick fire coloratura, never losing the flow of a phrase. It’s impressive to listen to, but more impressive still is seeing the freedom that such technical confidence gives her to enjoy the theatricality of the role and react to her fellow singers.”
“In the end, though, the evening belonged to DiDonato, for her technical mastery and flair for the perfect balance of seriousness, comedy and irony. “Pensieri, voi mi tormentate” was probably one of the best performances of a rage aria I’m ever likely to hear and in Act 3, her recitative maternal telling off of Nerone set the seal on a memorable performance.”
“Joyce DiDonato was in resplendent voice in the title role, making the most of her second-act dramatic scena “Pensieri, voi mi tormentate”: it’s hard to imagine this music sung better.”
“DiDonato dominates, radiating star-power, but there’s plenty of counter-weight in Franco Fagioli’s grotesque Nero, Xavier Sabata’s sweetly sincere Ottone, Luca Pisaroni’s Claudio and Elsa Benoit’s minx of a Poppea.
… DiDonato is on commanding form – volleys of coloratura clean as rifle-fire, her “Pensieri” a tragic soliloquy of Shakespearean scope and weight.”
“She owned the character: her vanity, her neuroticism and her oily affectation of tenderness. She owned the part’s humour. But she also owned its humanity”