Joyce DiDonato presented a recital at Carnegie Hall with the Brentano String Quartet on February 5, featuring works by Charpentier, Debussy, the world premiere of MotherSongs from the Lullaby Project, and the New York premiere Jake Heggie’s Camille Claudel: Into the Fire. The intimate and “incandescent” performance made an indelible impression on the critics in attendance:

“On Thursday at Zankel Hall, the incandescent mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato presented the New York premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Camille Claudel: Into the Fire.” Set for voice and string quartet, the work compresses a tragic life of operatic dimensions into a song cycle of great beauty and emotional resonance . . . there was a narrative cohesion to the concert that revealed Ms. DiDonato’s intelligence as a storyteller . . . Ms. DiDonato gave a riveting performance that ranged from the unkempt eroticism of “Shakuntala” to the hollow despair with which she sang the final line, “Thank you for remembering me” . . . Of the four women represented in Ms. DiDonato’s performance, one had been homeless during her pregnancy, two were teenagers, and one was incarcerated on Rikers Island. Ms. DiDonato’s tender performance of their songs alongside her tribute to Claudel thus became a gesture of defiant compassion.”

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim – The New York Times

“The mezzo-soprano presented a thrilling evening of challenging chamber music . . . Joyce DiDonato is a splendid singer. Everyone knows that. Her mezzo-soprano — uniquely expressive, extraordinarily rich yet exquisite in dynamic nuance — has been equally imposing in opera-house grandeur and concert-hall intimacy.

But she is too inquisitive, too discerning and, yes, too intelligent to content herself with conventional successes . . . All this came to light on Thursday when she presented an evening of challenging chamber music in conjunction with the equally brilliant, equally adventurous Brentano String Quartet . . . The climactic finale involved the local premiere of Jake Heggie’s Camille Claudel: Into the Fire (2011), an extensive ode to the agonised sculptor — Rodin’s lover — who died in 1943 . . . DiDonato sang the expansive solos with rare conviction and lustrous, subtly shaded tone. For a once in clap-happy Manhattan, the standing ovation seemed mandatory.”

Martin Bernheimer – The Financial Times

“DiDonato appeared in a stunning black-and-white outfit, the standing-room-only audience, which I have to assume was really there to hear her, embraced her with open arms. She then introduced three songs that had been created by the Lullaby Project . . . The conviction DiDonato brought to these heartfelt compositions was another tribute to her artistry. Not only can she sing convincingly in any language she choices, but her diction and sensitivity to vernacular lyrics (Will you play soccer just like your daddy does/Am I squishing you when I sleep at night?) lifted the compositions to that rarified world of art song . . . she saved the best for last: the premiere of American composer Jake Heggie’s monumental “Camille Claudel: Into the Fire” . . . The piece begins with a shimmering high A, at which point the string quartet seemed to be tuning up or metaphorically preparing for life as the first gorgeous waltz emerged, slowly at first, but then with more and more rhythmic, intense ferocity before it broke down again, just as DiDonato entered softly but gloriously with the opening line, “Last night I went to sleep completely naked, which seemed somehow to encompass Claudel’s entire life.

The warmth and profundity of DiDonato’s buttery lower register was gloriously explored in the second song, “La Valse” while her subtle soft notes were on display in “Shakuntala,” the most rhythmic of pieces . . . DiDonato sang, “Thank you for remembering me”, and her pianissimo was radiant. The entire quartet picked up the valse triste as DiDonato ended with another almost unbearable, “Thank you for remembering me.” And silence. There was nothing more to say, or hear.”

Glen Roven – Huffington Post