Joyce DiDonato celebrates the rich dramatic variety of the mezzo-soprano voice in this collection of arias for different characters – of both sexes – from a single opera, or from different operatic treatments of the same story.
Joyce DiDonato’s capacity for characterisation is as astounding as the range and flexibility of her voice. As her Virgin Classics recitals of Handel and Rossini have proven, she can charm and touch as a good girl, seduce and seethe as a bad girl, and slip believably into the trousers of a hero. As Opera News said of the Rossini disc, ‘Colbran, The Muse’: “With her sure sense of line and colour, DiDonato takes possession of the repertory, mining every musical and vocal gesture to inhabit each character confidently … Her theatrical sense is magnificent. Musically and dramatically, the disc is perfection.”
This new collection showcases DiDonato’s multi-faceted art – and the wealth of opportunities open to a mezzo-soprano – by presenting her as different characters, both male and female, from the same opera or from different musical treatments of the same story.
As DiDonato explains: “This recital celebrates the vast and fabulous world of the mezzo-soprano. Aside from the obvious Toscas or Cio-Cio Sans, I've never regretted the length of my vocal cords!
I have the privilege and unmitigated joy of playing boys and young men, as well as girls and grown women … It’s an exploration of the human palette of emotions. “I wanted to find a way to show this duality on disc, while highlighting some of the composers I'm most passionate about, such as Mozart, Bellini, Berlioz, Rossini, and Massenet. In exploring this idea, the possibility became clear for telling different sides of some of the most familiar tales which have served as inspiration for operatic legends: Cinderella, Faust, Romeo and Juliet … I've always thought of myself as a storyteller, and with this particular disc, I can showcase that side of me as never before. I'm ready to play!”
The programme features several roles that DiDonato has sung on stage – such as Rossini’s Cenerentola (it was the character’s gentle, then exuberant ‘Nacqui all’affanno’ that launched her international career at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition, and subsequently at La Scala), Bellini’s Romeo and Mozart’s Cherubino. The ‘flip sides’ of those characters are roles that have not featured in her repertoire: the Prince from Massenet’s Cendrillon (a lavish treatment of the Cinderella story more likely to bring DiDonato in the title role – as at Santa Fe in 2006 and, in 2011, at Covent Garden); the Nurse from Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, and both Chérubin (from Massenet’s ‘sequel’ to Le nozze di Figaro) and Susanna. The Figaro connection continues with an excerpt from Il barbiere di Siviglia (Rosina, of course, later becomes Countess Almaviva), while other operas on the programme, from the Renaissance to late Romanticism, include La clemenza di Tito (Sesto and Vitellia), Faust, La Damnation de Faust, Mefistofele, Orphée et Eurydice, Orfeo and Orphée aux Enfers.
Accompanying Joyce DiDonato in this tour de force is the Orchestre de l'Opéra National de Lyon under the company’s Principal Conductor Kazushi Ono, another artist who successfully embraces an extraordinary diversity of musical idioms.
As John von Rhein wrote in Gramophone: “In complete control vocally, Joyce DiDonato is … consumed by the character. She embodies whomever she’s playing and whatever emotional situation she is evoking.”