Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato has had a dream of a season, earning plaudits in the world’s top culture capitals, including London, where the Times declared her voice to be “nothing less than 24-carat gold.” The singer’s season has revolved around her specialty repertoire of Rossini, in which no mezzo is more celebrated. Following her hit solo Rossini album for Virgin/EMI (Colbran, the Muse), DiDonato now stars on one of the season’s hottest new DVDs – the EMI Il barbiere di Siviglia that captures the famous 2009 Covent Garden production where she performed in pink cast and wheelchair after literally breaking a leg on stage. Now DiDonato is taking on a new Rossini role, that of Elena in La donna del lago, based on Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake”.
As Elena, DiDonato is following in the footsteps of such performers as Rossini muse Isabella Colbran, Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, and June Anderson. After debuting as Elena at Switzerland’s Grand Théatre de Genève (May 5-17), DiDonato reprises the role a few weeks later at the Opéra National de Paris, where she sings alongside star tenor Juan Diego Flórez (June 14-30). London’s Telegraph marveled over DiDonato’s singing of an aria from La donna del lago at the Wigmore Hall: “ ‘Tanti affetti’ was a knockout, with a heart-stopping cadenza to the dreamy cavatina and sparkling fireworks in the triumphant cabaletta that left the entire audience with a silly smile on its collective face.”
Few singers on the international scene are enjoying a love affair with critics and audiences quite like DiDonato’s. The exuberant, engaging Kansas native – dubbed today’s “most user-friendly diva” by Opera News – completed a recital tour of Europe earlier this year that left reviewers throwing superlatives like roses. After the singer’s performance of Italian romances at London’s Wigmore Hall, critic Hilary Finch wrote in the Times: “DiDonato’s sheer love of sharing what she was doing radiated warmth.” Finch went on to praise not only DiDonato’s stage charisma but her vocal prowess: “Not one note is less than perfectly pitched, not one weak spot is heard throughout the register; and DiDonato is in total control… . The voice responds to every nerve-ending in the music with nuances of color.”
DiDonato’s recital tour – presenting a program that included 17th-century arie antiche, early Beethoven songs, and Rossini favorites – took the singer from across Spain and the Canary Islands to London and Brussels. Reporting on the two Wigmore Hall recitals, Opera Today noted an episode that underscored the American’s “user-friendly” charm: “The first half closed with DiDonato’s signature Rossini – the ‘Willow Song’ from Otello…. DiDonato’s relaxed demeanor was revealed when, just as she drew breath, a mobile phone interrupted proceedings: ‘It’s Otello,’ she quipped, ‘Tell him it’s not true.’ Unfazed and undistracted, the purity and transcendence of her performance was spell-binding.”
After she reprises her Italian love songs program in Paris on June 16 with pianist David Zobel, DiDonato will travel to Italy to resume her signature Rosina in a production of Il barbiere di Siviglia at Milan’s storied Teatro alla Scala (July 9-23). La Scala’s revival of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s staging will see DiDonato singing alongside the cream of today’s Rossini singers, including Juan Diego Flórez and Alessandro Corbelli.
A new role in Salzburg: Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma
On August 9 and 14, Joyce DiDonato tackles another new role in a concert performance of Bellini’s beloved Norma at the venerable Salzburg Festival. DiDonato is joined by soprano Edita Gruberova in the title role and tenor Marcello Giordani as Pollione. Friedrich Haider leads the Camerata Salzburg and the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus.