Photographer Credit: Chris Lee
Joyce DiDonato’s “Eden” is sparking insightful conversations about what it means for us to experience nature through the creative power of community collaboration. The mezzo-soprano’s global tour for her latest album, “Eden,” opens new pathways for classical music to ignite transformative possibilities for all, including children. On April 23, 2022, the spirit of collaboration was clear when she shared the stage with a local children’s chorus full of vibrant and refreshing voices. On tour, DiDonato performs with Il Pomo d’Oro Orchestra, conducted by Maxim Emelyanychev, and when combined, the effect is mesmerizing.
At the start of the show, DiDonato entered through the audience doors of Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium while vocalizing “The Unanswered Question,” originally written for a solo trumpet by Charles Ives. The mezzo’s voice became the essence of classical abstraction as she brought light into the darkness like a breeze in quiet solitude, inviting listeners to open their hearts, become more in that moment, and come together as one.
The auditorium remained dark until a single light signaled the awakening of a new dawn. At this moment, audience members saw the stark stage and purposeful placement of DiDonato in the middle of a partial circle, which was only made complete at the end of the performance. She resonated with the orchestra’s masterful playing with body movement until pausing at the start of Rachel Portman’s “The First Morning of the World.”
Portman is a British female composer who believes in the soul-evoking process of composing. Her career illuminates the many expressions of a composition to heal and connect with the core of humanity. Linda Nelson commissioned the work, and it is undoubtedly my favorite track on DiDonato’s album. Portman’s music with text by Gene Scheer melded with DiDonato’s voice so naturally that it seemed they had worked together in a past life and now come back to celebrate the joy of living and creating. To give you a sense of this compelling piece, I’ll share with you the lyrics. “There’s a language without question marks. You can read it in the rings of trees. And in the wind, and the river, and in the sound of birds singing. Has their song changed since the first morning of the world?”
“Eden” bridges the unspoken inner knowings of humanity, seeking to do better by honoring our planet and ourselves in healthy ways. With this principle as her guide, DiDonato answers the question some may ask as unexplainable darkness is thrust into the light all over the globe. Facing the internal fear of our own unanswered questions is to call boldly upon our shared reality’s unanswered suffering.
Normally, I do not include my personal experience in reviews; however, this one is very different, and I want to share with you my first encounter with “Eden” because that experience seeded my thoughts before entering Carnegie Hall. I listened to this album in my local subway station while waiting for my train’s arrival after work. A wooden bench was my respite when the first notes of Ives’ piece played through my earbuds. I took a breath that filled my entire body, and tears came to my eyes as the veil of self-delusional separation which I had carried until that moment dissolved. I could see and feel everyone and everything around me in the station for the first time. I observed the shifting bodies that danced, hoping their train would be on time. I saw the silent watchers keeping to themselves, exhausted from their day. I eyed the heavy metal wires that dangled above the cars and heard the squeaky wheels of the trains coming and going. For me, in this space and place, the entire world had stopped. Everything became one, and I sensed that my breath was the breath of my neighbor and the surrounding bodies were the same as my own.
I could not take my heart to a higher level of being in that single moment, and I still feel this inspiration today. My inner transformation is an everyday choice, and at that instant, I could not refuse the call to love my city more and to be at peace with all that is.
Thank you, Joyce DiDonato, Il Pomo d’Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev, and the voices of our youth for shining light on all that is good, for I believe together we rise.