The superstar mezzo-soprano Joyce DiD0nato is one of the world’s most in-demand opera singers. Here she tells WRTI’s Jim Cotter about how her life and career have unfolded since those faraway days at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. She'll give a rare recital in Princeton next week.
This Saturday, November 16th, WRTI dedicates its programming to opera. The now annual "Opera Day" is a celebration of this grandest expression of music and theater. WRTI’s Jim Cotter profiles Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato; she's not only one of America’s premiere operatic voices, but also one of the hardiest.
The tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet inspired some of Shakespeare's finest verse—and some of Bellini's most beautiful melodies. "An opera of definite dramatic appeal" (The New York Times) awash in "music of extraordinary grace" (All Music Guide), this bel canto masterpiece features international stars Joyce DiDonato, a singer of "glamour, charisma, intelligence, grace and remarkable talent," and Nicole Cabell, who "wields her radiant lyric soprano like a silken lasso" (The New York Times).
Jill Pasternak speaks with Joyce DiDonato on Crossover, November 2012
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, the brightest new light on the operatic horizon, graces us with her new release, Drama Queens, on the Virgin classics label. Her interpretation of works by Baroque composers such as Orlandini, Handel, and Monteverdi knocks your socks off. And in a blazing red silk gown, she breathes life into her ancient "heroines" - jealousy, tenderness, and passion - unchanging in the scheme of life. Saturday, July 6, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm on Crossover with host Jill Pasternak.
Joyce DiDonato's performance in the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots, "will be pointed to as a model of singing," full of "plush richness and aching beauty," in this Met premiere production. Elza van den Heever is "a vocally burnished and emotionally tempestuous" Elizabeth (New York Times). Matthew Polenzani sings Leicester and Maurizio Benini conducts.
Saturday, January 19th, 1 to 4 pm. Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda
Jim Cotter speaks with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.
WRTI will broadcast Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda live from The Metropolitan Opera on January 19th. The performance will also be shown live in hundreds of movie theaters around the world.
In this tale of royal intrigue, set in 16th-century England, the title role of Mary, Queen of Scots is sung by Joyce DiDonato. WRTI’s Jim Cotter spoke with the superstar mezzo-soprano about her latest role, how she constructs her characters, and how her years at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts were more useful personally and professionally than artistically.
Today, Joyce DiDonato is firmly ensconced on opera’s "A" list. But when she was training at AVA in the 1990s, such a future outcome seemed very unlikely.
DIDONATO: I wasn’t a star singer there and it wasn’t clear that I would go on and have a career, I had to go deep inside myself and ask do I still want to stay with this?
COTTER: So why did stick with it?
DIDONATO: I had to.
After Philadelphia, she had spells in the young artist programs at Santa Fe Opera and Houston Grand Opera where she says it all began to come together for her vocally.
COTTER: The voice started getting free and I started too find my voice, and that needed to happen. And happily it did and I continuously work to find more freedom.
DiDonato believes that in order to fully explore roles she needs to understand what the composer wanted, the historical context of the story and bring her own life experiences to the process of creating a fully fleshed-out character.
DIDONATO: The pain that I’ve gone through, in various ways, it always comes out of nowhere and socks you over the head. Of course I use that. It informs who I am as a human being and therefore it informs who I am as an artist.
The tragic opera Maria Stuarda, part of Donizetti's “Tudor Trilogy” of operas, reveals the deadly rivalry between two monarchs: Mary, Queen of Scots, and her cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England. Elizabeth has imprisoned Mary for treason, but agrees to meet with her at the urging of the Earl of Leicester—Elizabeth's advisor and Mary's lover. Tempers flare, insults are hurled, and Mary's fate is sealed. She contemplates her death with great dignity and virtuosic bel canto singing in the final scene.
It's true — opera is totally over the top. Plots can strain even the barest semblance of credulity (too many cases of ghosts and mistaken identities to count), with characters that could get you thrown out of an introductory writing course, down to the blushing ingenues and the evil connivers who might as well be twirling waxed mustaches.