Diva, Divo

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bellini,Berlioz,Gluck,Gounod,Massenet,Mozart,Rossini & Strauss
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Opera arias by Bellini, Berlioz, Gluck, Gounod, Massenet, Mozart, Rossini & Strauss
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano); Orchestra & Chorus of Lyon National Opera/Kazushi Ono
CATALOGUE NO: 641 9860

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Divo then Diva, Romeo for Bellini, then Juliet in Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette, Sesto in Gluck’s version of La clemenza di Tito and Vitellia for Mozart and so on. This conceit is elegantly and intelligently played out by Joyce DiDonato. But skirts or britches, what really matters is the singing – and that’s superb.
 
You revel at DiDonato’s attack in the cabaletta to Romeo’s aria ‘La tremenda ultrice spada’ from Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, marvel at the diamond bright coloratura in ‘Nacqui all’affano’ from La Cenerentola; you stand amazed at a pianissimo that seems to float on the air of its own volition at the end of Berlioz’s ‘Premiers transports’, and at a trill to end Gluck’s ‘Se mai senti spirarti sul volto’ that should be a text book for any singer who aspires to perform this repertoire.
 
Proof of DiDonato’s consummate musicianship is everywhere here, but nowhere more so that in Vitellia’s aria ‘Non più di fiori’ from La clemenza di Tito where she duets with Mozart’s basset horn as if it were her own uneasy conscience, the voice and instrument shadowing each other as she decides to tell Tito the truth.
 
But characterisation has always led DiDonato’s singing. So her Rosina is as much an independent woman as a minx determined to have own way; her Cherubino bubbles with desire, and her Susanna is both serious and playful in the closing scene of Figaro. For sheer beauty of tone, legato that defies gravity and singing that restores your faith in human nature, listen last of all to what Joyce DiDonato does with Berlioz’s ‘D’amour l’ardente flame’. Diva or Divo, this is the real thing. Christopher Cook