Country Life

The singer on gardening, climate change and using music to propagate a topic

Joyce DiDonato is almost ludicrously aptly named—she is both joyous and in possession of a god-given (donato di dio) voice, a warmly expressive, agile and richly coloured mezzo-soprano. She also has what appear to be boundless supplies of stamina and engagement. The day after singing in the opening night of Handel’s Theodora at the Royal Opera House, she is perched atop the bar in the Floral Hall, posing good naturedly for photographs. Hopping down, she grins, thanks everyone and plunges into conversation. Where does she get her energy?

‘From the music, from working with amazing colleagues. Also, however difficult it may have been, I’ve been able to profit from the past two years by taking a lot of rest. More than I’ve had in my entire life! I think I instinctively knew that it was the sabbatical I really needed, but probably would never have given myself. Now I am more than ready to be back in the thick of it.’

She has certainly gone into the thick of it, giving a masterclass for the Royal Opera’s young artists’ programme on the evening after Theodora’s dress rehearsal, singing lustrously in that staged oratorio (all four hours of it, including intervals) and preparing for the tour of her latest project, EDEN. From the relish with which she examined the role of Iago in Verdi’s Otello during that masterclass, I suspect her of being a closet would-be baritone. ‘Ha! Well I have always thought I’d love to sing Scarpia,’ she says. ‘But really, I’m so glad I’m a mezzosoprano because I’ve been able to take on such a huge variety of roles, from young men and boys to princesses and sorceresses, to queens and villains and killers.

They’ve grown up alongside me, from Cherubino, a hormonally explosive adolescent, in Le nozze di Figaro, to powerful, real women who make their own choices—Semiramide and Agrippina and Didon in Berlioz’s The Trojans.

Read the full interview here.