Saturday, October 20, 2012

DiDonato Where She Belongs

Here's a surprising truth about Joyce DiDonato, the scrumptious soprano: she's better outside the Met.

Surprising to me, anyway.  I've seen her a couple of times at the Met in the past couple of years and I love her all to pieces.  She was magical in The Enchanted Island, hilarious in Le Comte Ory.  But a few hours later, you can't quite remember what you heard.  Last night in San Francisco (in Berlioz' I  Capuleti e i Montecchi), she was stunning. 

 It's not a matter of power: Juan Diego Flórez (say) ha a voice of comparable power. But Flórez' voice has a raspy edge to it that makes it send out in almost any crowd.   DiDonato's however wonderful, tends to dissipate in a big house.   Put her inside the more constrained space at San Francisco and she'll knock you flat.

All the more impressive in that the opera, for all its virtues, is second tier--the fourth, as one might say, of Bellini's three great masterpieces.  But the second scene--DiDonato's Romeo matched with the Nicole Cabell's equally arresting Juliet--was one to remember.  Two lovers, each intense, urgent, bound together, yet each with her own agenda, so also at cross purposes with each other in an engagement they cannot resolve and cannot break.    As a a performance piece, I'd put it on the shelf next to the old tape of Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi doing the second act of Tosca.

In the overwhelming unlikelihood that she ever paid any attention to me, I don't suppose DiDonato would think I am doing her any favors.  Fair enough; I'm sure the Met offers more of everything of which a diva can dream, including pay.   And I don't begrudge her a bit of it.  Still for pure listening pleasure, I  think I prefer the other house.

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