Joyce DiDonato’s recital was a presentation of brief dramatic scenes—each one distinct and indelible. It was only incidentally an exhibition of the astounding vocal skill that has made her supreme in her field. Poised, with a wide, warm smile, she has an elegant personal style, but that’s not the kind of elegance that mattered last night.
With “Tanti affetti” from Donna del Lago, for example, the first thing you noticed is her skill in navigating the physical feat of going from low to high, almost motionless slowness to almost-impossible-to-follow rapidity, nearly-not-there softness to commanding loudness, and so on without the slightest effort.
DiDonato’s artistry is so solid, that the initial amazement subsides and you begin to follow the music as a seismograph of successive waves of exhilaration, despair, bewilderment. DiDonato’s subtle but apt changes of expression, her gestures clarify the psychological delineation. You stop marveling at the singer and begin to follow the story of the heroine.
The program alternated between old favorites and novelties. Everyone was there to hear her sing Rossini and Mozart, and she didn’t disappoint. But who is this Fernando Obradors, whose Canciones classica started the evening? Now it's necessary to find out.
She portrayed not one but two Cleopatras. The resolute and commanding one of Johann Adolph Hasse, followed by Handel’s more complex Cleopatra, who undergoes a period of profound despair before rediscovering her strength.
“Tanti affetti” was one of the encores; for the final one, the girl from Kansas sang “Somewhere over the rainbow.” The audience went berserk.
As a venue, the Broad Stage is the apotheosis of genuine luxury by virtue of size alone. There’s some strange circulation issues with the design, but the auditorium is so compact that every seat is excellent. It was like being in somebody’s front room.