Cast a Diva and Find a Trouper: Joyce DiDonato Breaks a Leg During Rossini’s Barber of Seville

Returns to the Stage and Completes the Evening’s Performance at London’s Royal Opera House

Joyce DiDonato, the feisty mezzo-soprano from Kansas who was born to play Rossini’s equally feisty comic heroine, Rosina, fell and broke her right leg early in act one of The Barber of Seville on Saturday, July 4th, the opening night of an important revival at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden . She returned to the stage to finish the evening’s performance, and blogged into the night about her adventure and its aftermath. She then showed up on every operatic weblog in the world. The Kansas City trouper said “the show must go on”, and she plans to be back on stage in the sparkling production tonight (Tuesday, July 7), as well as in subsequent performances on July 10, 13, 15, and 18.

After DiDonato had finished delivering her showpiece aria “Una voce poco fà”, she tripped and fell as she ran off stage. Her manager, Simon Goldstone, watching in the audience, knew immediately that there was a problem when he saw her use the signal that theater folk use to ask for some ice! “For act two, she came in with a cane. Some people in the audience clearly thought it was part of the show,” he says. But that was just the beginning. DiDonato was determined to finish the show, and after the final curtain she was rushed to the nearest ER. The opera is nearly three hours long, and she spent about four hours in the ER of University College Hospital before being released. She was assured that while this kind of break is painful, it heals quickly (the broken bone is the fibula, the outer bone of the lower leg); the orthopedic specialist who saw her the next day said she should be able to perform in a day or two. Accordingly, she was fitted with a new fiberglass cast in shocking pink – to match her costume. It’s rumored that the Royal Opera House is planning a wheelchair entrance for tonight’s performance (Bette Midler, anyone?).

The Independent’s Edward Seckerson, whose review was one of the first to appear in London ’s papers, reported at a time when the extent of DiDonato’s injury had not yet been determined:

“Joyce DiDonato’s dazzling Rosina was hanging on for dear life at that point having stumbled and sprained her ankle in the second scene. She battled on, of course, singing with delicious innuendo and fabulous aplomb, and the crutch she used came in useful when she trashed the set in the storm scene. But then no one was ever buying that ‘I am a well behaved girl’ line. DiDonato has the attitude; she owns this role.”

DiDonato is the only principal member of the cast who was also in the original production in December 2005 (this is its first revival). "Although her reputation was already spreading fast, she was not the international star then that she now very clearly is", Simon Goldstone noted. Now she’s an international star whose Rosina has lit up stages from Tokyo, Paris and New York to Chicago and most recently Vienna , where she was hailed by a reporter for Opera News:

“She vamped, camped and cavorted her way into the Viennese public's heart. Ravishing in powder blue, she dazzled the hearer with interpolations verging on the impossible (I was reminded of Beverly Sills's sometimes wild improvisations), highlighted by a stunning trill. Basically, she blew everyone else off the stage.”

Joyce DiDonato also lit up movie screens worldwide when she starred in the Metropolitan Opera’s sparkling production of “Barber” transmitted live in high definition on March 24, 2007. The Royal Opera will have its own high-definition transmission of “Barber” next week, and DiDonato plans to be part of it. Originally planned for screening only in London’s Trafalgar Square, the Barber of Seville will be shown on huge screens in a dozen other places around the UK on Wednesday, July 15, broadcast live from the stage.

DiDonato recently began a new exclusive recording relationship with Virgin Classics. Her debut album, an all-Handel collection called Furore, has been a Billboard bestseller since its release in January 2009. Her next album, slotted for release in the fall – when she returns to New York City to star once again in “Barber” at the Metropolitan Opera – is, appropriately, an all-Rossini album.


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