Joyce DiDonato at the Terrace
Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 08:37AM
Stephen Brookes

March 1, 2007

Joyce DiDonato
The Washington Post 3/1/07:  The young mezzo Joyce DiDonato has been stirring things up on the operatic stage for the last few years, winning hearts and minds for her dramatic depth as much as for her remarkable, multifaceted voice. So it was a real pleasure to hear her Tuesday in the relatively intimate Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, where she presented an unusually captivating recital that ranged from lullabies to scorched-earth coloratura.

Accompanied by the fine pianist Julius Drake, DiDonato opened with five songs by Georges Bizet. It was an inspired beginning; these songs are lyrical almost to a fault, and she delivered finely calibrated interpretations, precisely balanced between full-voiced richness and transparent delicacy.

But that was mere lead-in to the blockbuster of the evening, Gioachino Rossini's solo cantata "Giovanna d'Arco." It's a dazzling tour de force, almost a catalogue of coloratura technique. And while it may sound a bit overcooked to modern ears, DiDonato carved a brilliant and explosive drama out of it, repeatedly building the tension, drawing back and building again into a final climax -- a performance as psychologically astute as it was powerful.

The second half of the program was given over to Spanish music, including five darkly poetic songs by Enrique Granados (known in his homeland as "the Spanish Schubert") and seven songs by Manuel de Falla. DiDonato has taken a particular interest in this music, and it's well suited for her; she brought a growling wit to "El Paño Moruno" and a convincing Iberian pathos to "Asturiana," before closing the evening with three sophisticated, beguiling songs by the much-too-little-known Xavier Montsalvatge.

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