Joyce DiDonato is considered one of the most fearless and compelling vocal artists in opera. Her depth of interpretation of the works she performs are admired across the globe. As a strong advocate for the arts she is admired in the industry. Primephonic had the chance to talk to her, following her Gramophone Recital Award.
From a small city in the suburbs of Kansas City to some of the world's most prestigious music venues and stages: looking back, what have been the major challenges involved in this meteoric rise to fame and change of perspective?
An enormous challenge has been to manage the exhaustive travel and a life with very few roots in place. But once I learned to embrace the lifestyle rather than battle with it, things fell into a very good rhythm and I can say that I really enjoy this life that brings to many surprising moments to me.
You have a wide repertoire that features different styles and composers such as Mozart, Rossini, R. Strauss, as well as roles from contemporary opera. Would you single out some composer(s) whose writing strikes you as particularly apt for the opera?
At the end of the day I always return to Handel, whose psychological drama always arrests me in its depth and poignancy. These are roles that I can continuously return to and always find new angles and insights.
You have interpreted several popular and established roles, while also singing in world premieres of works by contemporary composers. Is there a difference in the way you approach a well-known piece vis-á-vis a newly written part that's about to be performed for the first time?
The contemporary pieces have actually taught me more about how to approach the old pieces - which is to open the score as if I was the first person to see it. I am aware and of course honour the traditions that have been built into our art form, but I try to always take the composer’s wishes (the score!) the last word. My favourite moment in learning a role is sitting at the piano and playing through the entire score for the first time - learning the language of the language of this particular piece, and letting it speak to me.
You have received several awards so far, including two Grammy Awards for Best Classical Vocal Solo in 2012 and 2016. You also earned a nomination/award in this year's Gramophone Awards for your album In War & Peace, which features music from composers such as Handel, Purcell, and Monteverdi. Could you tell us a few words about the making of this album?
I feel as if this project found me, rather than my crafting it. It developed out of a strong desire to speak to the world around me at this particular moment, but also addressed the urge I’ve had for a long time to record some of these iconic pieces (“Dido’s Lament”, “Lascia ch’io pianga”, etc.) The alignment of these two factors came at the perfect moment.
Are there some upcoming projects/collaborations in the near future you are looking forward to?
Every single one of them! Including singing Dido on the stage for the first time, which I know will be a formative experience!
Joyce DiDonato in conversation with Primephonic contributor Mimis Chrysomallis