Saturday, November 17, 2012

Joyce DiDonato: Drama Queens

There is no doubt that Joyce DiDonato is THE voice of our time, a consummate artist (and yes even an entertainer in the best sense of the word) at the very peak of her powers, enjoying every moment and note she sings. Other singers (Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Dmitri Hvorostovsky come to mind) may be more household words, but often for antics outside the concert hall or for controversial, poorly received performances.

Joyce, (I have met her a couple of times; she is so down-to-earth and genuine I just have to call her by her given name) was in her element; she was home and thus gave a heart felt performance that was more an event and a happening than a straight concert recital. Those attending the sold out “Drama Queens” concert at the Folly Theatre are richer for it. Joyce was accompanied (a word that diminishes the contribution of this stellar group of musicians founded in 1979 in Amsterdam) by Il Complesso Baroocco, led by Russian violinist Dmitry Sinkovsky. The ensemble's founder Alan Curtis and Joyce have embarked on a project to resurrect long forgotten but once popular baroque operas. This concert (one of just three stops in the US) is a culmination of the effort, along with the eponymous album recently released on Virgin Classics.

“Why do we adore these queens of the drama?” Joyce writes in the program notes. “The answer for me lies at the heart of why we love opera: we yearn to open hidden doors to the richest, most complex, utterly human and profoundly moving emotions that we may not be able to access when left to our own devices. The crazy plots and extreme circumstances of the operatic universe give us permission to to unleash our often too idle imaginations.” I rarely quote so much from the notes, but this short paragraph so perfectly sums up our experience upon entering the world of the operatic “Drama Queens”. Arias from composers both dear (Handel, Monteverdi) and obscure (Cesti, Porta) feature such grand Queens as Cleopatra and Orontea, Queens of Egypt;  Rossane, Princess of Persia and Ottavia, Princess of Rome were interspersed with instrumental interludes by Scarlatti, Vivaldi and Handel.

Highlights: "Disprezzata regina" from Claudio Monteverdi's "L'Incoronazione di Poppea" of 1643, a virtuoso aria where the Queen of Rome Ottavia spits out her jealously and bitter betrayal followed seamlessly by Giacomelli's “Sposa, son disprezzata”, the wife, Irene Princess Of Tresbisond, who is cheated and abused by the husband she loves. Then there was Cleopatra's aria "Piangerò la sorte mia" from "Julius Caesar." by Handel This aria was probably the most familiar to the audience received a most sympathetic performance. Joyce's runs and trills were perfectly clear and florid but never, never overwrought. Then in contrast was the obscure Giovanni Porta's “Madre, dileta, abbracciami” from his 1738 opera “Ifgenia in Aulide”. Ifgenia's heart and breath-taking aria “Mother, dearest, embrace me, I will never see you again” was grief and bitter resignation personified. Not a dry eye in the house.

Dmitry Sinkovsky, directing the ensemble from the violin, was beyond exemplary. He let the diva have her way yet he and his incredible ensemble were her equal partner. In the instrumental interludes (a couple of Scarlatti sinfonias and Handel’s passacaglia from “Radamisto”) Joyce sat among the ensemble, as if the Queen were enjoying her Consort of Instruments. Joyce let Il Complesso Barocco have the stage to themselves for an insanely vituosic performance of Vivaldi’s violin concerto “Per Pisendel”. Sinkovsky solo work almost (?? yes, probably) equaled Joyce' mind boggling virtuosity with his loosened pony tail and bow almost invisible in their flight. I closed my eyes and thought of Paganini.

Joyce and the ensemble treated the ecstatic audience to several encores, most notably the Orlandini “Col versar, barbaro!” from Berenice, Joyce milking the low, guttural “Barbaro” with her bronze lower range. After Joyce quipped “did you hear his (Sinkovsky's) hoedown in that last piece?” he then accompanied her final encore laced with the open strings of a Kentucky fiddler, bringing both Joyce and the audience to laughing tears.

It was that kind of evening.

Addendum: and the red Viviane Westwood gown was the 3rd star of the evening.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hijinks! newEar Ensemble

My first contribution to I Care If You Listen a new web magazine devoted to contemporary classical music.

Hijinks! Kansas City newEar Contemporary Music Ensemble.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Cameron Carpenter, Organ

I just have two words to say about this concert:

My dear.