THE BLOG
11/19/2012 04:16 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2013

Joyce DiDonato and Her Amazing Dress

The diva sings a little bit, too.

Your intrepid reporter had the delight of witnessing the Sunday, Nov. 18, Carnegie Hall concert of Joyce DiDonato, amazing mezzo-soprano, with the Amsterdam Baroque orchestra Il Complesso Barocco, under the quirky leadership of violinist Dmitri Sinkovsky. The concert featured music of Miss DiDonato's new CD, Drama Queens (EMI), which showcases arias from Baroque operas sung by mad queens, usually either in a jealous rage or truly theatrical despair.

The event was a treat for the eyes as well as the ears, for the beautiful Miss DiDonato wore an amazing red gown created by Vivenne Westwood especially for the CD and the events. The gown changed forms, each more stunning than the last, so many times one almost expected a Lepage-style (except functional) Deus ex machina effect in a grand finale of truly Baroque proportions, with miraculous revelation and transformation, but the concert did not suffer from the inexplicable lack of such a closing.

Il Complesso Barocco was truly part of this event. Miss DiDonato and the orchestra are very experienced working together, and it was a joy to watch the intense concentration with which each orchestra member was aware of every other member and fully supportive of Miss DiDonato's every breath and phrase. Very different from the pick-up orchestras one sometimes sees thrown together to back up a visiting diva, this group is part of the concert tour. As Miss DiDonato said in her charming remarks at the close of the concert, some of the young orchestra players had never been to the US, and were thrilled to be here now. I, for one, am also thrilled they are here!

Each aria or scena was a gem. The most familiar piece on the concert was Piangerò la sorte mia from Mr. Handel's Giulio Cesare, sung in the original soprano key. Cleopatra laments her current fate, but once death's release comes, she will haunt that bastard tyrant wherever he is! In this and every aria, Miss DiDonato showed the emotional contrast in the words and music, and sang the words as if they truly are thoughts in her own language, in her own time.

Most of the other arias were quite obscure. Miss DiDonato suggested in her closing remarks the music for some had lain gathering dust on library shelves for centuries. One such highlight was Lasciami piangere from Reinhard Keiser's Fredegunda, sung as an encore. Another queen who wants to die from grief because she's been jilted. So spellbinding was the performance of this aria, complete with violin obbligato by Mr. Sinkovsky, that one could hardly breathe.

Some of the arias were grouped together naturally by similar theme. One such pairing was Disprezzata regina (Despised queen), from Mr. Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea, and Sposa son disprezzato (I am a scorned wife), from Geminiano Giacomelli's Merope. This set was preceded by a brief Scarlatti sinfonia, and the set as a whole was quite effective.

While I was afraid a concert of Baroque arias by mad queens might be monotonous, nothing could be further from the truth. I was especially fearful my concert-going companion might find it tiresome, having much less exposure to opera than I've enjoyed, but that was not true either. There was musical and vocal contrast, and one could almost imagine seeing the large-scale Baroque operas on tiny court theater stages. Especially in the second half, when Miss DiDonato's dress was transformed to a Baroque-style confection, complete with hooped underskirts. I could write accolade after accolade about Miss DiDonato's beautiful, free, rich tone quality, her even voice through her wide range, her coloratura, her artistry, but it's all been said. The woman is a goddess.

What follows is the remainder of Miss DiDonato's Drama Queens tour schedule from her own web site. Please see this concert if you can, and do buy the CD. I intend to!

20/11/2012Sonoma, CAUSAGreen Music Center
24/11/2012VancouverCanada
02/02/2013LisbonPortugalGulbenkian
04/02/2013BrusselsBelgiumPalais des Beaux-Arts
06/02/2013LondonUKBarbican Hall
08/02/2013GenevaSwitzerland
10/02/2013ParisFranceThéâtre des Champs Elysées
28/02/2013ValenciaSpain
02/03/2013ValladolidSpain
04/03/2013ToulouseFrance
06/03/2013BarcelonaSpain
08/03/2013MadridSpain

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