Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and conductor and pianist Antonio Pappano are two of the most successful musicians in the world. Ahead of a recital at the Royal Opera House, we spoke to them about the mental strain of being a musician, the importance of music education and what they’d tell their 18-year-old selves
The life of a professional musician can seem glamorous and privileged – and of course it sometimes is. But there are also the bad auditions, the stress of live performance and the constant competition with your peers.
What mental pressures are musicians under?
“There’s very little middle road in this career,” said DiDonato. “It’s either super high or super low and you get whiplash in between those peaks and valleys.”
Pappano, who’s been Music Director at The Royal Opera since 2002, agreed:
“Let’s not underestimate how difficult it is to be a performing musician. Coming to terms with what the realities of your talents are. This is the hard bit. Because what if you come to a point in your career and you realise you’re maybe not good enough to make it to the top. How do you deal with that information?
“I’m not saying that one shouldn’t aim for the top, but not everybody’s going to get there. And I don’t think that’s a disaster. Teaching is not just a fall-back. If you’re a good teacher that’s a gift.”
Why is music education so important?
“Music is a tool to give kids today a means to express themselves,” said DiDonato. “It connects you to your classmates, to your fellow human beings. There is power in that.”
Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano were filmed backstage at the Royal Opera House. Their recording ‘Joyce and Tony’, recorded live at Wigmore Hall, is out now.
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