Joyce DiDonato’s Handel CD Furore Resounds in Europe, Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo Conquers Paris Opéra

She also stars in Handel Biopic on German TV

The American Mezzo Will Return to New York in May to Sing the World Premiere of Peter Lieberson's New Song Cycle, The World in Flower, with the New York Philharmonic Led by Alan Gilbert

Ecstatic reviews in the U.S. for Joyce DiDonato’s Furore CD – 14 emotion-laden Handel arias – have apparently created a spike in European attention, while more rave reviews for her Paris Opéra performance in Mozart’s Idomeneo roll in from France, Germany, and England. And a German media campaign emphasizes her role in a Handel biopic shot on authentic locations by Germany ’s top ARD TV network for the anniversary of the composer’s death 250 years ago. It’s being shown all over Europe this spring, commemorating Handel’s death in April 1759.

Performing Mozart in Paris , as reported in the London Times, “DiDonato made [her] arias sound more glorious than they really are … the American mezzo approached the sublime. This Idomeneo was worth catching for her alone.” WebThea.com states unequivocally: “Ultimately the real joy for Mozart – and us – in this staging is the beautiful American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who has it all … . She is the light illuminating the inky night of this production.” And Germany’s Neue Musik-Zeitung declares: “Personifying Idamante in body and voice is Joyce DiDonato, with her lovely, noble mezzo ideally suited to Mozart, as the bringer of peace between Crete and Troy.”

Opera, Britain’s top international opera periodical, declared Furore its “Disc of the Month” in no uncertain terms:

“Joyce DiDonato is a mezzo who seemingly can do no wrong … . Though her singing is unquestionably the main thing here, praise is also in order for her selections, a group of arias expressing rage and other emotions of characters in distress. From Serse, for instance, we get … the fulminations of ‘Crude furie degl’ orridi abissi’, which, with its vivid declamation, flawless coloratura, and riveting intensity, sets the tone for the stunning vocalism to come.

“I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a solo Handel disc this much.”

The one-hour TV bio of George Frideric Handel, by award-winning German filmmaker Ralf Pleger, is titled Handel: The Film and argues that the German-born composer who conquered London was one of the most popular musicians in history. Being shown all over Europe in mid-April, it stars DiDonato at recording sessions for Handel’s 1735 London hit Alcina (to be released this spring by Deutsche Grammophon) and in recreated historical scenes. In one of these, DiDonato portrays Francesca Cuzzoni, a favorite prima donna of Handel, who tries to throw her out of a window after she refuses to sing an aria he’s playing on the harpsichord. Not incidentally, the film’s narrator is the popular author of Venice-based detective novels, Donna Leon – a self-confessed “Handel freak” who dedicates her non-writing time and hard-earned book royalties to promoting and recording the 45 operas by her favorite composer (“a god”).

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Joshua Kosman says of DiDonato’s Furore: “This new recital disc of Handel arias finds mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato singing with the technical bravura and expressive lucidity of a great interpreter.” And the Absolute Sound, the super-critical “golden ears” magazine, raves:

“The recent surge in Handel aria discs ... has a flip side: many of the releases offer nothing special. This one does. Joyce DiDonato’s voice is gorgeous, her technique copes with killer coloratura, and her dramatic sense is superb. ... Her stage appearances in comic bel canto roles didn’t prepare me for the fiery personality she unleashes on this aptly titled disc. ... DiDonato is not afraid of taking risks. Her snarls in an aria from Teseo chill; her slow trills in an aria from Hercules are laden with pathos. And virtually every selection includes melodic fireworks delivered with expressiveness and purity of pitch. ... A don’t-miss disc.”

DiDonato has been a French favorite since her international breakthrough in Paris as Rossini’s Rosina at the Paris Opéra Garnier, followed by her performances with William Christie in a tour-de-force performance as Handel’s Dejanira in Hercules – both available on DVD. The encyclopedic French website ForumOpéra.com delivered a rhapsodic review of Furore:

“With her customary generosity Joyce presents a bountiful program centered around the ‘aria di furore’, but balanced with plenty of more intimate moments. … This recording ranks high in the imposing discography of Handel recitals. It will enchant aficionados from the first note, but will also appeal to others who want to acquaint themselves not only with the personality but also with the expressivity of this singer. … She is in great vocal form, with healthy resonance at every level, and with exemplary control of Handelian style and syntax.”

In a leap from the 18th and 19th centuries to the 21st, DiDonato returns to New York in May to sing the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s cantata The World in Flower with the New York Philharmonic and its Music Director-Designate, Alan Gilbert (May 7, 8, & 9).

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