“Among the many sparkling facets of Joyce DiDonato’s artistry, her singing of Mozart repertoire perhaps does not receive the attention that her performances of Baroque, bel canto, and contemporary music justifiably garner. This is an inexplicable injustice, as her depiction of Sesto in this recording of La clemenza di Tito is a performance of the sort of psychological depth and technical confidence that only a truly great singer can muster.
In the past few seasons, the mezzo-soprano has sometimes discernibly worked harder to conjure the musical magic for which she is renowned, but her Sesto is a reminder of the wisdom of singers like Kirsten Flagstad and Birgit Nilsson, mistresses of other repertoire who insisted that periodically singing Mozart rôles is a soothing balm for the voice. Sesto’s music is daunting, but Mozart was too shrewd to write vocal lines that could not be sung.
After hearing DiDonato’s singing in the Act One Andante duet with Vitellia, ‘Come ti piace, imponi,’ doubting the veracity of Flagstad’s and Nilsson’s suggestion is unfathomable. Here and in the duet with Annio, ‘Deh, prendi un dolce amplesso,’ DiDonato’s vocalism is youthful, poised, and sincere: what artifice there is exists in the music. Weaving her voice into the colorful tapestry fabricated by Romain Guyot’s wonderful playing of the aria’s clarinet obbligato [his performance of the basset-horn obbligato in Vitellia’s rondò is equally superb], she delivers an astounding account of ‘Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio,’ the crispness of her trills matched by the fluidity of her articulation of the triplet fiorature cresting on top B♭s in the fast-paced Allegro assai. Then, as Sesto wrests with his promise to slay Tito, she summons the potency of Greek tragedy in the accompagnato ‘O Dei! che smania è questa, che tumulto ho nel cor!’ The passage beginning with ‘Deh, conservate, o Dei, a Roma il suo splendor’ in the quintet is voiced with acute understanding of Sesto’s motivations and the conflicting loyalties that torment him.”
“Joyce DiDonato’s magnificently fiery delivery of Sesto’s ‘O dei, che smania è questa!’ accompanied recitative – its every word imbued with the same authentically Classical combination of urgency and deliberative detail that characterizes the mezzo’s recently recorded Berlioz Didon – and then unfolded with an increase of dramatic tension at each accumulation of voices and plot revelations.
This Sesto strikes me as DiDonato’s finest achievement on records so far, finer still than that admirable Didon”
“Joyce DiDonato is, of course, a superb Sesto – so musically subtle, so dramatically sensitive – …”