Is Joyce DiDonato the world’s best Rossini singer?, asked the New York magazine Opera News after the American mezzo sang the finale of La Cenerentola at Carnegie Hall in January 2009. That title certainly seemed hers by sovereign right, it continued; Her phrasing was silky, her timbre rich and glowing, and her ornaments were impeccably stylish and utterly beguiling. Most impressive was DiDonato’s combination of immaculate technical control with an air of wild, unstoppable joy. This was truly a moment to treasure from an artist who is at the very top of her game.
This program includes two arias from La donna del lago, which DiDonato is scheduled to sing over the coming seasons in Geneva, Paris, Milan and London. She takes the role of Elena – written for the soprano Colbran, but a great success in the 1980s for DiDonato’s idol, fellow high mezzo Frederica von Stade. Apart from Rosina’s Una voce poco fa, the other arias on the CD, from Otello, Semiramide, Armida, Maometto II and Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra, were also composed for Colbran.
DiDonato proved that she can triumph in music written for soprano with her recent complete recording of Handel’s Alcina and her debut last year in the role of Mozart’s Donna Elvira; the performances at London’s Royal Opera House prompted The Guardian to describe her as the real star , singing her first Elvira and nailing even the topmost notes, while The Daily Telegraph praised her performance in a similar vein: The star of the show was Joyce DiDonato, who sang Elvira with a style, sensitivity and bravura that outclassed everyone else on stage.
To return to Rossini and Rosina, the role for DiDonato’s debut at the Vienna State Opera in April 2009, the Wiener Zeitung had this to say: “She tossed off crystal-clear coloratura, presented a dark, secure low register, a confidently nuanced mid-range, bright and voluminous high notes – in short, everything that makes for great, modern bel canto style. She appears undaunted by the role’s many technically tricky passages, and even more, she sang musically challenging variations on every repeated phrase, shaped every single bar with brio, and presented a psychologically multi-faceted characterisation with wildly joyful abandon.