Joyce DiDonato, who was making her solo debut.
This was the second time I've heard Joyce in recital and I couldn't wait to hear this Carnegie Hall debut. Having heard her also at Tucker Galas, the Marilyn Horne Birthday Gala and of course at the Metropolitan Opera, I knew that was I in for a very special afternoon. Like the time first time we heard her in recital, almost 3 years ago exactly at Lincoln Center, David Zobel accompanied.
Joyce's voice is full of joy and fairly sparkles, her timbre like a trumpet. Her program, mostly French and over two hours, was full of the expected Rossini, but she also thrilled with Haydn, Buzzi, Peccia, Loeneavalo and Di Chiara. As evidenced by her blog and her tweets, Joyce makes educated and emotional choices of the music she shares.
She noted that after Rossini retired from writing operas, he often had a salon on Saturday nights at his home in Paris to showcase his new songs he had written during the previous week. She said that the tradition of recitals began with sharing songs like this in people's living room and what was Carnegie Hall but a very ornate living room.
The loveliest pieces she sang were a set from Cécile Chaminade, a French composer who just happens to be a woman. Joyce said she chose these a year ago believing that New York would need some spring about now...little did she know! These songs, Come! My Beloved!, Villanelle, Morning Song, The Summer, were transportive.
Carnegie Hall also granted her a song cycle commission, which she did with composer Jake Heggie and Sister Helen Prejean. It is called the Breaking Waves and I really hope she is able to record it for posterity. It is absolutely lovely with four songs - Advent, Darkness, Music and Return. Sister Helen's text was inspired by her love of surfing - Joyce noted that Sister has poster of surfers on her walls. When she finished, Jake sprinted from his seat in the orchestra to the stage where he engaged Joyce in a long, loving embrace. There clearly is a mutual admiration society with this singer and composer.
Joyce's encores were (Cherubino), Tanti affetti from Rossini's La donna del lago (which we heard her sing at the Marilyn Horne concert) and finally Somewhere Over the Rainbow. She prefaced her final encore with the anecdote that her father was no fan of Judy Garland but he eventually admitted that this was a pretty good song. She also pointed out that many of her fans are "Friends of Dorothy" which got a huge laugh. The best thing she said was, "Music teaches us what is possible." Her rendition of the song was tender yet soaring.
The program makes no note of the designers of Joyce's gowns or jewelry, but I am here to tell you that she appeared impossibly glamorous and beautiful. Her first gown was a full black gown studded with gold sparkles. Her second gown, pictured below, was a strapless bright red or fuscia. She was dripping in diamonds! We spotted Lawrence Brownlee, in the audience and she shouted out to him from the stage, and Terrence McNally, the playwright and librettist of Dead Man Walking.
Sally and I went for wine and steaks after the recital, coincidentally at the same restaurant where Joyce had her after party. As she was approaching, we knocked on the window at her, applauding and giving her okay and thumbs up signs. She looked jubiliant and radiant!
The full set list:
HAYDN Berenice, che fai, Hob. XXIVa:10
ROSSINI "La partenza"
ROSSINI "Le dodo des enfants"
ROSSINI "Chanson de Zora"
CHAMINADE "Viens! mon bien-aimé!"
ROSSINI "Assisa al piè d’un salice...Deh, calma," from Otello
JAKE HEGGIE The Breaking Waves (World Premiere, commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
BUZZI-PECCIA "Lolita" (serenata spagnola)
LEONCAVALLO "Serenata francese"
DI CHIARA "La spagnola"