American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is at present one of the most fabulous mezzo voices in the world of opera. Her dramatic prowess and beautiful, flexible singing never fail to impress. Alongside the irresistible warmth of her voice, DiDonato is extremely versatile and has a rare quality, which is always giving the impression that the composer was thinking specifically of her when writing the opera. Her versatility, beauty of tone, incredible coloratura, detailed understanding of each composer as well as passion for the music are present in all her performances, be it live or on disc. She is at her best on stage and I have seen her in a wide range of electrifying, superb performances: For example, as Dona Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni or as Cinderella in Rossini’s La Cenerentola; however, perhaps one of her best was as Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House, in London, when she broke her leg during the premiere, stoically continued to the end, under painkillers, leaning on a walking stick, and then appeared on a wheelchair on all subsequent performances of the opera. If this isn’t amazing, I can’t think of anything that is!
Joyce DiDonato is a truly accomplished artist. She is magnificent in a live opera but she is no less impressive in a simple concert or recital. I attended her performance at the Proms in 2009 and her recital of Italian love songs at Wigmore Hall in 2010 and her delivery of the music was simply superb!
DiDonato’s latest CD “Diva, Divo” demonstrates all the qualities that I mentioned above. It is also an interesting concept to showcase the duality of roles that mezzos are generally faced with: female and male. Mezzos, as well as countertenors, are today’s natural heirs to the roles composed for the great castrati; therefore many women perform in opera the so-called “trouser-roles”. Not all women are plausible as men and not all are capable of conveying the emotions of an ardent male lover or of a lively young warrior. Joyce DiDonato is and even though she looks very feminine, her dramatic skills make her play a man convincingly but also excel in a female role.
On top of her singing and dramatic qualities, Joyce DiDonato is also an incredibly kind, warm and generous person. She is far from the image of the capricious, unreasonable diva even though she calls herself “Yankee Diva” in her e-mail and blog. She is a pleasant, funny, down-to-earth sort of person, easy to interact with and lovely to talk to. I was lucky enough to have met her in person last year, as she kindly agreed to give me an interview, and I must say that my conversation with her was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had in the world of opera since I’ve started writing reviews.
Although, I think that DiDonato’s previous CD “Colbran, the Muse” (for which she won a Grammaphon Award last year and it was one of my recordings of the year 2010) is even better than the current one; “Diva, Divo” is still an excellent recital of this truly mesmerising singer and, as she says herself in her personal introduction to this CD: “Via opera we happily escape into fantastical stories, wild adventures and, perhaps most profoundly, the simplest of truths. We are allowed and encouraged to indulge our emotions in a way that no other art form can offer, for opera truly is the combination of all the great arts.”
I couldn’t agree more!