“The Wigmore Hall’s 2014-2015 season opened to a packed house last week with two concerts given by that most radiant of opera stars, American mezzo Joyce DiDonato. An added draw was her accompanist, Sir Antonio Pappano, the Royal Opera’s music director who arrived from conducting an eight-hour rehearsal at Covent Garden.
Kansas-born DiDonato is remembered for continuing a performance of The Barber of Seville after breaking her ankle on stage. She sang the remaining performances from a wheelchair. Her “can-do” attitude and glorious voice make her one of the most in-demand singers today.
First aria at Wigmore Hall was the virtuoso lament from Haydn’s Arianna a Naxos that displayed DiDonato’s dazzling vocal technique. After railing at the faithless Greek hero Theseus, DiDonato moved to Rossini’s lighter La Danza, celebrating the pleasure of dancing.
Songs by lesser known composer Francesco Santoliquido and a gem, Don’t Forget Me! by Ernesto De Curtis completed the Italian half. DiDonato returned, changing int another Vivienne Westwood frock, for a second half of such American composers as Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers. She captured the mischievous wit of the chorus girl’s plaint “Life upon the wicked stage” from Kern’s Show Boat and leant seductively against the piano from the Siren’s song from Leave It To Jane.”
– Clare Colvin Sunday Express September 2014
In her Wigmore Hall recital last weekend, she cast her net equally wide, from a rare 15-minute Haydn scena, Arianna A Naxos, to stuff by Stephen Foster, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern. Such is her respect for her audience, she knew everything by heart; the scores were in her head, not her head in the scores, unlike so many of her colleagues.
The simple, unpretentious way she talked to her enthusiastic audience between groups of songs won everybody’s heart.
She has the talent of a diva, but doesn’t behave like one. This was an evening of such pure joy that it should be available on the NHS as an anti-depressant. Everybody loved it, especially her pianist, Sir Antonio Pappano, another artist for whom warmth and a ready smile are second nature.
By the way, the distinguished critic William Mann was ridiculed years ago for daring to suggest that The Beatles were the greatest song-writers since Schubert. But what Joyce proved in this recital is that Kern, Rodgers and Harold Arlen can take their place in a recital alongside Haydn and Rossini, and not sound out of place to a Wigmore Hall audience – surely the most knowledgeable and musically sophisticated in Britain.
More recitals like this please, where serious artists can embrace the great American songwriters, who are more than worthy of their attention.”
– David Mellor The Mail on Sunday September 2014
“Which leaves only a few lines for the pleasures of the world’s deservedly favourite mezzo, Joyce DiDonato, and the world’s decidedly favourite conductor-cum-cocktail-pianist par excellence, Antonio Pappano. Not that he needed quite those smoochy skills to accompany DiDonato in Haydn’s ambitious agonising Arianna a Naxos. Their recital, given twice, opened the Wigmore Hall’s new season to thunderous applause.Both performers were funny and versatile, with Pappano leaving DiDonato to make the jokes, yet in his silence being just as comic himself … Yet they delivered it all with comsummate wit and intelligence, and witnessing Pappano at the piano is always unmissable. DiDonato is about to take up residence at the Barbican. Book fast. Expect fireworks.” – Fiona Maddocks The Observer September 2014
“If you’re going to open the new concert season before the Proms have finished, it helps to start with a pretty big bang. And Wigmore Hall on Saturday offered two of them: Joyce DiDonato, mezzo diva supreme, and Antonio Pappano, golden maestro and piano accompanist to the stars. Matching their personal backgrounds, the programme’s love songs, cannily chosen, formed another couple: Italian-language fare for the first half; American material for the second.“That’s as mad as we get!” DiDonato bubbled as the building resettled into its foundations after her incandescent account of Haydn’s cantata Arianna a Naxos. Daring vocal pirouettes, vivid acting, wide dynamic swings, amazing breath control: all had been masterfully blended.”
– Geoff Brown The Times September 2014
“The American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato brings the house down 10 times running with this string of pearls from luxuriant 19th-century Italian operas. Familiar gems from Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini are lit up by fireworks from the less well-known Pacini, Mercadante, and Valentini. From Carafa’s Le Nozze di Lammermoor of 1829, “L’amica non torna” and “Oh, di sorte crudel” feature a delectable clarinet obligato from Jean-Michel Bertelli.
Thrilling drama, pinpoint precision, sensuousness, and even a broad masculinity as Romeo in “Tu sola, o mia Giulietta…”, from Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, make this a hard act to follow.”
– Claudia Pritchard The Independent on Sunday September 2014
“The opening night of the Wigmore season brought together two leading peformers in a programme that suited them both perfectly. It was comprised of an almost entirely Italian first half, followed by a second consisting of American classics. Expert in her textual definition in both languages, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was persuasively communicative in music ranging from Haydn to Jerome Kern.”
– George Hall The Guardian September 2014
“Whatever she sings, however, DiDonato is one of the great musical communicators of our time, […] Anyone in need of evidence of DIDonato’s passion as performer should watch her delivering this summer’s graduation address at the Julliard School. It is a tour de force, a spirited and spectacular defence of all that is best about working in the performing arts […]
DiDonato’s Rossini songs had her completely in home territory, with flawless phrasing and rubato, and the first half closer, the Neapolitan song “Non ti Scordar di Me”, was highly effective […]
It was a joyous evening and an auspicious start to the new Wigmore season.”
– Sebastian Scotney The Arts Desk September 2014