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Concerts & Opera

Joyce DiDonato and Venice

01.07.2016


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Joyce DiDonato recital at Vienna State Opera

Opera world’s universally famous American mezzosoprano Joyce DiDonato’s recital, which she gave on the evening of April 13 at the Vienna Opera, took the fans of this genre to a two-hour dream world, or more accurately, a romantic land. This land was Venice, since the musician gave the title “A Journey through Venice” to her recital. Saying that she loves Vienna, but today she’d like to take the audience to Venice the moment she got on stage, DiDonato followed a programme consisting of attentively selected songs whose composers of different periods had all a connection with this dream city. Her brief, yet not at all boring explanations about the songs gave the opportunity to the audience to form an opinion about the works, while providing a noticeable communication with her listeners.

She started her recital with two arias from Antonio Vivaldi’s –composer who is identified with Venice – lesser known and performed opera Ercole sul Termodonte. The first aria (“Onde chiare sussurrate”), with DiDonato’s exquisite grace-notes, was a beautiful aria that gave us the impression that some birds would fly into the hall from among the piano keys and made the audience feel the flow of a tender communication between the pianist and the singer. The aria “Amato ben” from the same opera is also a beautiful aria embellished with passages that drive the piano forward. The aria also revealed DiDonato’s flexible voice which jumped to higher pitches and undulated mellifluously on there.

DiDonato also sang Gabriel Fauré’s five songs, based on Paul Verlaine’s poems and composed during his stay in Venice. She added an extra beauty to each line of Op.58 “From Venice”.  

Joyce DiDonato is not only a master of Handel, Vivaldi and Mozart, but also a master of Rossini. In this recital, she sang three songs titled “Venice boat race” (La regata Veneziana) from Rossini’s piano accompanied song collection “The Sins of Old Age” and with her voice and acting power, she managed to draw the audience into the “race”. “Willow Song” from Rossini’s opera Otello was the most dramatic piece of the programme in which the singer could beautifully reflect her dramatic power. David Zobel’s accompaniment to the song was extremely refined.  

Prior to her singing, DiDonato explained that composer Michael Head discovered the three Venice Songs he dedicated to Dame Janet Baker in 1974 when he was still a student who never went abroad before and then sang the songs in such a way that she was absolutely describing the shouting of the gondoliers and the flapping sound of the doves with her voice; it was the Venice atmosphere which was created in the Opera hall.




The famous soprano also gave some information about the songs called “From Venice” by the French composer of Venezuela origin, Reynaldo Hahn, and she amused her audience by telling that these songs written in the Venetian dialect were premiered in 1901, when their composer played on the piano he placed on a gondola. Her dramatic talent was revealed through the funny situation described with the lyrics of L’Avertimento (Warning), a song she sang in a vivid tempo; last but not least, in Che pecà (What a pity!) DiDonato’s acting quality was attested once again. Pianist David Zobel was also impressive with his great accompaniment.

Joyce DiDonato’s stage stance is also very good. Her technically perfect breathing control from the highest to the lowest pitch of her voice, her vocal agility, not losing any value of her voice in the long breaths, her virtuosity in using the colours of her voice, a refined enriching art, are all evidences of why she is a sought mezzosoprano in the international arena.  

She is generous, as well. In response to the spectators’ persistent applause, she granted us 15 more minutes of great time with three more songs. She closed the evening by singing “Tanti Affetti”, aria from Rossini’s opera, La Donna del Lago in which she displayed all the flexibility, the colours and skill of her voice; then the song “Over the Rainbow” which was sung for the first time by Judy Garland in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” and finally, Richard Strauss’s lied “Morgen!” (Tomorrow) which has a sorrowful melody, but optimistic lyrics.

David Zobel, who is accompanying Joyce DiDonato for a while now is an exceptional pianist and a perfect accompanist. The harmony between them was another factor that made the recital night a great success.


Ayşe Öktem
Vienna

Photos: Ashley Taylor

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