"A Journey Through Venice" at Carnegie Hall
“Like other critics, I have run out of words to describe and praise DiDonato . . . Frequently I write that she “sings like an instrumentalist.” This is a little bit mysterious. She sings like the great violinists play—with the same flexibility and accuracy (to name two qualities). She does things with her voice that you’re not really supposed to be able to do with a voice. Hilary Hahn can do them with a violin, but . . .
I also frequently say that DiDonato “hugs the line.” This, too, is a little mysterious. What do I mean by it? I hate to cop out on you, but I think you know it when you hear it. DiDonato adheres to the musical line ruthlessly, splendidly. A hurricane could not move her off it. She would no more depart from the musical line than would Hahn.
DiDonato is a very good singer of French music, as she proved in her Fauré songs. But she really comes alive in Italian. The voice is more vibrant and colorful when that language is in her mouth. She is at her very best in quick Italian music—think of her Cinderella, in Rossini’s opera.
Speaking of him, DiDonato sang his Regata veneziana. She did so with almost unbelievable charisma. An Italian singer like Ebe Stignani would have grinned with appreciation.
Michael Head lived from 1900 to 1976. Not long before he died, he wrote Three Songs of Venice for Janet Baker. In remarks from the stage, DiDonato explained that she herself was given these songs to study when she was in college, and fell in love with them. They are fine songs indeed. And she sang them beguilingly . . .
DiDonato told a story about Reynaldo Hahn and his Venetian songs. Before relating the story, she said, “I know this is in your program, but . . .” I just loved her for that. The acknowledgement was refreshing. She sang those Hahn songs beguilingly (to repeat language I have already used). She was beguilement itself. Now, to beguile, you need voice and technique. Those have to come first (especially technique, I would say). Then you can begin to beguile. All the artistry and all the best intentions in the world won’t do the trick. I once heard Marilyn Horne say at a master class, “Get your technique, and the world’s your oyster.” DiDonato did, and it is . . .
In her encores, DiDonato departed from Venice. She began with that famous and well-loved encore “Canzonetta spagnuola,” by Rossini. She missed the first note, but was exemplary thereafter. Then she sang the Neapolitan song that some of us consider the best of them: “Non ti scordar di me.” She sang it with consummate style . . .
In my chronicle, I write,
Typically, we overrate the past and underrate the present. Or else we are cautious about the present (reluctant to go out on a limb with our judgments). I have been privileged to hear many good and great singers since the mid-1970s. I doubt I have heard a better one than this present-day Kansan.
Meaning DiDonato. She is a great and historic singer, and we are privileged to live in her age.”
Jay Nordlinger – New Criterion