David Fox: Joyce DiDonato isn’t the first singer in this series—by my count, she’s number five, and we’re near the midpoint. But she was absolutely the artist I thought of when Peter Gelb announced this unusual initiative of live-via-remote recitals that keep the Met alive and in reach during the pandemic. It’s not just because DiDonato is a great singer and a star, though she is, of course, both of those things. It’s more because in recent years, she has established herself as something rarer and even bigger. She has become a kind of arts and humanitarian ambassador. Fueled by a fierce intelligence, deep earnestness, exceptional eloquence, and social media savvy, she is a presence and a power, as much when speaking and thinking as when singing. Who better to imagine a program that would suit this (we hope) unique moment? “I Dream a World” is exactly that, and the venue itself—the Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum, Germany, a repurposed industrial space, now showcasing contemporary art—couldn’t be a better metaphor.
Cameron Kelsall: I can’t exactly pinpoint when DiDonato transitioned from an appealing but somewhat standard-issue lyric mezzo to something approaching opera’s Marina Abramovič?. Truth be told, it’s sometimes a bit self-indulgent. Here she treated the recital as monodrama, as she did with her recent Winterreise and her devised Baroque concert/installation In War and Peace. Her appearance here reinforced the idea that we were about to witness a Very Serious Artistic Event. The glowing no-makeup effect. The bare feet. The severe all-black ensemble that seemed to say, don’t expect chitchat or encores. The spherical sculptures dotting the raised dais where DiDonato performed with pianist Carrie-Ann Matheson on one side of her and the early music orchestra Il Pomo d’Oro on the other. In lesser hands, it could veer toward parody. But DiDonato’s fully committed performance, combined with a voice at its peak and a go-for-broke dramatic instinct, instead set a standard to which every subsequent program in this series will have to meet…
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Categories: Criticism, Music, PARTERRE BOX
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