THE BARBICAN – LONDON
“There was New York glamour in the series’ opening concert, nevertheless. It could not be otherwise with Joyce DiDonato. The mezzo-soprano artfully combined both musical intelligence and vocal control to capture the decadence – it’s the only word for songs that at one point get off on the decapitation of innocent victims – of Ravel’s 1903 Shéhérazade song cycle. But she did it more by exquisite restraint than by show, emphasising the self-regard of the Tristan Klingsor texts, rather than milking Ravel’s orientalism. Ever the trooper, DiDonato gave Richard Strauss’s Morgen as a lusciously indulgent encore . . .”
Martin Kettle – The Guardian
“The star soloist of the concert was Joyce DiDonato, rounding off her Artist Spotlight season at the Barbican. Ravel might be tut-tutting from the grave at the slow speeds she and Gilbert chose for his song cycle Shéhérazade, but if there is one singer who could carry them off, it is DiDonato. Every line glistened with an impressionist’s subtlety of colour. The dark, lower reaches of her mezzo-soprano conjured the dangerous lure of the Orient. Her barely audible invitation “Entre!” was a mere breath of sensuality.”
Richard Fairman – FT.com
“Joyce DiDonato gave a rapturous rendition of Ravel’s song-cycle about the mystic East, Schéhérazade.”
Ivan Hewett – The Telegraph
” . . . everything came together for the solo number, Joyce DiDonato singing Ravel’s Shéhérazade. She is the perfect partner for this orchestra, with a voice that projects effortlessly at any dynamic, mingling and blending with the woodwind and string colours, but never disappearing into them . . . in the flexibility and expressiveness of her singing. She also has excellent diction, putting the text at the forefront of the performance.”
Gavin Dixon – The Arts Desk
“DiDonato’s singing (always a highlight) was all light and depth. Every note carried an energy from a rich array of overtones. It made for a shimmering display. Special mention goes to NYP leader Sheryl Staples whose organic solo playing nicely complemented Richard Strauss’s exquisite ‘Morgen!’. It was a surprise ending to the first half, and DiDonato’s Barbican residency.”
Kate Telfer – The Spectator
NATIONAL CONCERT HALL – DUBLIN
“There was a palpable sense of excitement before the start of last night’s concert in a fully packed National Concert Hall. Heavily advertised and long since sold-out, the performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) under the baton of Alan Gilbert with soloist, celebrated mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, was billed as the highlight of the International season this year. And our expectations were not disappointed.
Ravel dominated the programming, occupying central positions in both halves. Opening with Nyx by Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen made for a daring pairing with Ravel’s Shéhérazade given the former’s length (20 mins), its esoteric harmonization and the audience’s impatience to hear the golden voice of DiDonato . . .
From the opening rising triple repetition of “Asie”, DiDonato’s voice thrilled with emotional intensity, demonstrating a fine control both in the lower registers and the upper reaches. As the music’s character shifted constantly, so too did DiDonato; at times, languidly, sensually lingering on “Je voudrais m’attarder” at other moments, exploding in passion (“Je voudrais voir mourir d’amour ou bien de haine”) . . . In “La Flûte enchantée” DiDonato’s voice seemed to caress each note as she sang of her lover’s flute, while “L’Indifférent” was sung with an effortless, languorous, sultry tone. There was an exquisite control of dynamics (ppp) on the word “entre” – a delicately seductive invitation if ever there was one. With singing as glorious as this, I wanted it to last for a 1001 nights more.
After some charming banter from soloist and conductor, a delectable Morgen by Strauss was sung as a much appreciated encore.”
Andrew Larkin – Bachtrack.com
“The same attention to the finest of details informed the sophisticated orientalism of Ravel’s languorous, florid, haunting Shéhérazade. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato sang with a kind of effortless aplomb, as if singing of beauty and precision were something that could just be made to happen. It was the kind of performance that never seemed to come at you, but rather drew you in to its exceptional intimacy, like some of the best performances of chamber music . . .
There were encores at the end of each half of the concert: DiDonato was heartstopping in Strauss’s Morgen! and, at the very end, a group of brass players stole the show with some no-holds-barred rollicking while their colleagues sat and looked on in silent admiration.”
Michael Dervan – The Irish times
” . . . mezzo Joyce DiDonato explores the exotically perfumed world of Ravel’s Shéhérazade. The opening Asie has her floated phrases caressing Ravel’s sensual lines beautifully.
The exquisite La Flûte Enchantée also pinpoints NYP’s golden-toned principal flautist while L’Indifferent has Joyce DiDonato delicately immersed in Ravel’s mysteriously ambivalent ambience. There is an encore with Ms DiDonato euphoric in Strauss’ equally rapturous Morgen. Music-making par excellence all through.”
Pat O’Kelley – Irish Independent
“That smooth control is shown to good effect in the second work of the evening, with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato taking centre stage for Ravel’s Schéhérazade . . . possessed of a rich vocal tone . . . La Flute Enchantée . . . with the magnificently moustachioed Robert Langevin providing the beautifully clear flute lines – DiDonato finds a more confident tone, balancing warmth with a welcome intensity to her voice.
Charming her audience with a cúpla focail, DiDonato, née Flaherty, closes out the opening half with an encore in the form of Richard Strauss’ Morgen!; the strong, clean vibrato of violinist Sheryl Staples matched beautifully to the DiDonato’s clear tones, the orchestra’s unobtrusive backing working to give her voice the space it needs.”
John Millar – GoldenPlec