Joyce DiDonato is a fierce artist and one of the finest of the 21st century. She didn’t land at the number one spot of our top singers of 2017 list for no reason.
DiDonato, born on Feb. 13, has been the champion of all people and in the opera world she has shown an ability to slip from one piece of repertoire to another unscathed. She has championed and world premiered the work of Jake Heggie while promoting her pacific “War and Peace” concert tour around the world. She’s become a multi-award winner and continues to push the boundaries of what is expected of her.
Among one of the eye-opening movements in DiDonato’s career has been her questioning of her own voicetype. Not necessarily openly or aggressively, but in the types of roles she picks. While most would call her a “mezzo-soprano,” she has recently called that into question with the roles she has taken on, many of them traditional soprano roles. Here is a look at five such roles.
The title role in the second of Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy is traditionally taken on by a soprano. In the history of opera, such sopranos have included Joan Sutherland, Montserrat Caballé, Beverly Sills, Edita Gruberova, and Mariella Devia, among others. But DiDonato has also made her mark on the role, performing it at the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Teatro Liceu in Barcelona, among others.
La Donna del Lago – Elena
Rossini’s opera was world premiered by a soprano and since then has been championed by such sopranos as June Anderson, Montserrat Caballé, and Katia Ricciarelli, among others. DiDonato famously interpreted the role at the Metropolitan Opera for its premiere at the house and also took it on in Santa Fe.
Sutherland, Renée Fleming, Anja Harteros. Just three of many sopranos to take on the role of the title character in Handel’s Opera. But DiDonato has also achieved success as the sorceress in Vienna and Paris.
One of the American superstar’s recent repertoire additions, this is a rather massive undertaking with the role famously attributed to sopranos with a tremendously high range. Sift through the opera anals and you’ll find the likes of Gruberova, Anderson, Nellie Melba, Sutherland, Cheryl Studer, Caballé, and many more. But DiDonato was not daunted and brought her own flavor to the role in Munich and London over the past year.
Don Giovanni – Donna Elvira
This might be a bit more of an ambiguous stance as many mezzos have interpreted the role of Elvira. Yet, the tessitura rises more into soprano territory. At the world premiere the composer had a soprano, Katerina Micelli take on the role. And you tend to find some of the greatest sopranos ever gravitate toward this part. Among them are Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Birgit Nillson, Marina Rebeka, Julia Varady, Anna Caterina Antonnacci, and many more. Of course there are mezzos who have sung the role, including DiDonato, who also recorded it under Antonio Pappano.