"Worldwide Demand for Mezzo-Soprano"
The New York Times, September 7, 2008
Under that no-nonsense title you'll find my contribution to the Times's annual fall preview section, "The Season Ahead." Maybe it's unorthodox to sing the praises of Joyce DiDonato in advance of a season in which she's absent from the Metropolitan Opera House. But the Times purview happily extends beyond the five boroughs, and DiDonato has an impressive year ahead. (I borrowed the action shot, by the ever-impressive Hiroyuki Ito, from the Times website.)
Readers of DiDonato's blog, Yankeediva -- and if you're not, you should be -- know that right now she's in London, where she's playing her first Donna Elvira in a Don Giovanni that opened this evening, in a performance that was broadcast live to movie theaters across Europe. Already there are comments on her blog attesting to her success; meanwhile, I continue to be impressed with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what goes through her mind as she prepares a role, and I look forward to seeing her reactions to the premiere.
Coming up soonest are performances of Ernest Chausson's ravishing Poéme de l'amour et de la mer in her home town of Kansas City, MO (Sept 26-28), and her first Béatrice in Berlioz's Béatrice and Bénédict at Houston Grand Opera (Oct 30-Nov 14). After a quick European concert tour with Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques to promote their fantastic new all-Handel disc on Virgin Classics, Furore, DiDonato finally comes to New York in January for three quick hits at Carnegie Hall: She'll participate in the annual Marilyn Horne Foundation Gala in Stern Auditorium on January 18, present the Furore program with Rousset & co. at Zankel on the 23rd, and sing Mozart and Rossini arias with James Levine and the Met Orchestra back in Stern on the 25th. (Furore will be released here in January; I just listened to a super-long-lead advance copy, and it's dazzling.)
There's something truly special coming in May: The World in Flower, the cantata Peter Lieberson wrote for his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, then set aside after Lorraine's passing and his own bout with cancer, finally receives its premiere in the New York Philharmonic's concerts of May 7-9. Alan Gilbert will conduct; DiDonato sings alongside baritone Russell Braun and the New York Choral Artists. Mahler's Symphony No. 1 is the pairing; I'd expect this to be a hot ticket.
It's been a tremendous pleasure and privilege to watch DiDonato's career ascend to high point after high point over the last few years, and I was happy to have this opportunity to pay my respects in print on Sunday. I'll be looking forward to catching as many of these concerts as I can, and am already sorry that my next planned trip to Houston misses Béatrice by a couple of weeks. DiDonato's official website has a full list of her upcoming engagements.
Meanwhile, fellow New Yorkers, if you need a small taste of fresh DiDonato to tide you over until January, watch out for Lamenti, a new disc by Emmanuelle Haïm and her sparkling period-instrument ensemble, Le Concert d'Astrée. Due out on Virgin in October, the disc includes laments by Monteverdi, Cavalli, Strozzi and more, performed by a starry cast that includes Patrizia Ciofi, Natalie Dessay, Véronique Gens, Philippe Jarroussky and Rolando Villazón, among others. Even in such impressive company, DiDonato's rendition of Monteverdi's "Addio, Roma" is a clear standout. (U.K. web store MDT has the complete contents and other details here.)
Carcass - Swansong (Earache)
Jacques Offenbach - Les Contes d'Hoffmann - Natalie Dessay, Leontina Vaduva, Sumi Jo, Catherine Dubosc, Roberto Alagna, José Van Dam, Lyon National Opera/Kent Nagano (Erato)
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Loud/RCA)
GZA - Liquid Swords (Geffen)
Kanye West - Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)
Ice Cube - Raw Footage (Lench Mob)
Jean Michel Jarre - Equinoxe (Dreyfus)
Joyce DiDonato - Furore - Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset (Virgin, due January 2009)
Emmanuelle Haïm- Lamenti - Le Concert d'Astrée (Virgin Classics, due Oct. 14)