In an interview with me some years ago, Marilyn Horne had a complaint. The typical opera review, she said, went on and on about the production – about what the stage director had done, what the set designer had done and so on.
Only at the bottom was there a smidgeon of comment about singing. That is a complaint that I have long shared. In honor of Horne, and this complaint, let me go on for a while about singing… DiDonato is back, lighting up the Met stage. That is what she did in 2005, when she appeared as Stéphano in Goundod’s Romeo and Juliet. That is a nothing role, frankly, with a nothing aria. But DiDonato, this sparkler from Kansas, practically stole the show with it. Since then, she has been stunning in recital…and stunning in just about everything else, too. Last January, she ended Marilyn Horne’s 75th-birthday gala in Carnegie Hall with Rossini’s aria “Tanti affetti,” from La donna del lago. Even Horne – no slouch herself in that aria – had to be wowed.
DiDonato was in top form as Rosina on a recent Saturday night. She has just about every gift an opera singer can have, musically, vocally and theatrically. The voice can be sultry and smoky, particularly in its lower register; and it can be pure as the driven snow – everything depends on the musical needs of the moment. DiDonato is perpetually alive, even in relatively trivial bits of recitative: nothing is routine, humdrum or phoned in. And her technique is quite simply the envy of the vocal world.
Let me offer just one detail from that Saturday night: in the “Freddo ed immobile” section, Rosina, along with other singers, must sing detached notes – very hard to keep on pitch. Not for DiDonato. And I will not forbear commenting on Rosina’s big aria, “Una voce poco fa.” DiDonato is always coming up with new interpolations for it, new wowings: and they are fitting, exciting – wow-ing, indeed.
Finally, DiDonato has what I have long called her special ingredient: adorability, which, along with some other key ingredients, cannot be learned, but seems to come from within, or above.
– Jay Nordlinger, City Arts, October, 2009
You could hardly wish for a better cast than the one assembled here… Joyce DiDonato, who broke a leg while playing Rosina at the Royal Opera in London in July, never missed a step here. Added to her lovely voice and precise coloratura were her superb dramatic skills: she spoke volumes with a sly smile or an arched eyebrow. If the Met currently has a sure-fire hit, this delicious lark is it.
– Steve Smith, New York Times, October, 2009
Best in show was Joyce DiDonato as the rebellious ingenue Rosina. Not only did she nail every musical curlicue, she added intriguing variations of her own, modulating her sleek mezzo-soprano with subtle shifts of color and tempo. Just three months after fracturing her leg doing this opera in London, she scampered around the stage with the madcap verve of a young Bette Midler.
– James Jorden, New York Post, October, 2009