Posted by: operatheaterink | February 15, 2011

Review: Joyce DiDonato Recital, The Broad Stage, Feb. 15, 2011

More Wonderful Than Words Can Say!

Joyce DiDonato

Photo: Virgin Classics, Nick Heavican


By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

I am at a loss for words to describe Joyce DiDonato’s recital at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on Feb. 11. It was a magical evening that I wish I could have shared with at least half of the Los Angeles public. Everything came together for DiDonato: her superbly exquisite sound; her technique which is capable of bellowing thunder or uttering the purist of pianissimos; her musicianship and expressivity; her crystal clear enunciation, whether in French, Italian or English; and her statuesque onstage persona. When singing, she reminds us we are in the presence of a great diva. When speaking, she becomes our best friend.

DiDonato looked divine in a long black taffeta evening gown with her honey blond hair pulled back in a classic chignon. After intermission, a glittery red Valentine’s Day gown dazzled our senses.

Her program began with the final fiery aria from Haydn’s “Scena di Berenice”:

Why, if you are so numerous,
You who cause me to go mad,
Why do you not slay me,
You sorrows of my heart?
Increase them, oh God,
Please increase them,
For then you will help me
By taking from me my life
With this unbearable excess of grief.

Berenice has fallen in love with her husband’s son, Demetrius. He commits suicide, and she cries out for the gods to end her life. DiDonato gave us twelve minutes of sheer vocal ecstasy followed by contrasting Rossini songs, including the stylized Carmenesque bolero, “L’invito,” and the haunting children’s lullaby, “Le Dodo des enfants.”

She sang a set of art songs by Cécile Chaminade, whose works were unfortunately somewhat forgotten during the last half of the 20th century, which is difficult to understand considering the lyricism and intricate beauty of “Viens, mon bien-aimé!” and the joyous spirit displayed by the composer and singer in “L’été.”

After intermission, DiDonato returned with Rossini’s solemn “Assisa appiè d’un salice” from the opera, “Otello.” Much like Rossini’s muse, Isabella Colbran, DiDonato is a masterful interpreter of the composer’s characters in opera and song. Her “Willow Song” was lush with fluid runs and ornamentation mixed with a soulful legato line aided by the superlatively accomplished pianist, David Zobel.

DiDonato took us on a gondola ride with Reynaldo Hahn’s “La Barcheta.” You could have heard a pin drop. Her “Che pecà” was cheerful and inspiring, and she concluded with three Italian songs.

Arturo Buzzi-Peccia’s “Lolita, Serenata Spagnola” was invigorating. DiDonato charmed us with her facial expressivity when singing Leoncavallo’s “Serenata Francese,” and Vincenzo Di Chiara’s “La Spagnola” was just what the doctor ordered. The accompanying music took us to a carnival, and the song left us in a joyful mood as DiDonato flirted with us playfully.

But the ultimate showstopper was the first encore: “Tanti affetti in tal momento” from Rossini’s “La donna del lago.” DiDonato’s coloratura gymnastics left us breathless with spot-on highs and voluptuous lows, stupendous runs and trills.

And her “Over the Rainbow” made us smile. Even though she is a world-renowned singer and international traveler, she will always be the wide-eyed inquisitive girl from Kansas not unlike Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Her recital tour includes Kansas City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, and New York City’s Carnegie Hall where she is premiering a song cycle written for her by composer Jake Heggie.

The Broad Stage is the perfect size for an intimate recital, and the acoustics enable every artist to present him or herself in the best possible light, which DiDonato did majestically. What a great talent! I feel so privileged to have been there.