Classical MPR
by Julie Amacher
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Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was born just outside of Kansas City, but she’s not in Kansas anymore. These days, she’s globetrotting the opera and recital circuit. On her latest recording, she’s performing live in London’s Wigmore Hall, and it sounds as if she’s clicked her heels and found her way home.

“I have a long history with the Wigmore Hall,” Joyce explains, “so it was a bit like coming home, in terms of my recital home there, which I love. Having the chance to partner with Tony Pappano, the music director of the Royal Opera House, at the keyboard is something really indescribably inspiring because you have somebody who is such an incredible conductor and musician. He knows my voice now so well because we’ve had the wonderful privilege of working together a lot that he knows how to help shape the phrases that support me in a way that very few people know how to do. And he does it instinctually. So we put together this album.

“It’s a double CD,” Joyce continues, “and the first disc is all Italian art song with Rossini, Haydn and a strange, obscure composer named Francesco Santoliquido. And then in the second half, it’s American songbook pieces, pieces I’ve always wanted to sing, some well-known, like ‘My Funny Valentine, Can’t Help Lovin That Man,’ and some that haven’t been heard much in modern day.”

Rossini’s Cinderella has been a signature role for Joyce DiDonato throughout much of her career. The music of this Italian opera composer fits beautifully in her voice. Two art songs by Rossini are featured on recording. These, too, fit the agile voice and fingers of this dynamic duo. “Well, one for sure. La Danza,” Joyce says. “It requires somebody extraordinary at the keyboard. It’s a tarantella and it’s meant to go quite fast and it’s nearly impossible to play. And I thought, ‘OK, if I’ve got Tony Pappano at the keyboard, let’s give him a workout and let’s let the world hear how dexterous he is and how incredible he is at the keyboard.’ And sure enough … I’m pretty fast at this stuff, and sometimes I’ll catch a pianist or conductor off guard about how fast I can sing things. And he went like a bat out of hell and I looked at him and I was like, ‘OK, maestro. We’re doing this, let’s go.’ It was so much fun, it was a whirlwind and he certainly captures the exuberance of that piece.”

Read the entire feature here.