20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato

Classic Arts Features   20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato
In this latest installment of our informal Q&A series, we spend a few minutes with the charming "Yankee Diva" Joyce DiDonato. Her latest album of Rossini music was just released on Virgin Classics.


The charismatic mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is a singer in demand. Winning ecstatic reviews for the flexibility, brilliance and expressiveness of her voice, she is equally admired for her strong acting abilities and unaffected personality. Her wide-ranging repertoire includes everything from the most challenging coloratura roles to characters in contemporary works such as Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking. The music of Rossini is particularly important to her and her new recording of his music for Virgin Classics was an instant bestseller; reviewing the album, Time Out New York called her "today's gold standard" in Rossini.

This summer, she made headlines when she broke her leg during a performance as Rosina in The Barber of Seville at Covent Garden but went on to finish the performance on crutches _ and the remainder of her run as Rosina performing from a wheelchair.

Town and Country called her popular blog (www.yankeediva.blogspot.com) "deliciously unguarded"; as well as her writing, she also devotes time to another passion: photography. A winner of the Richard Tucker Award and the Met's Beverly Sills Award, the Kansas City-born star receives an Opera News Award this fall.

1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

Barber's Adagio for Strings; Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms; Bach's Mass in B minor

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

Robert Shaw's recording of Rachmaninov Vespers; Solti's Le Nozze di Figaro; Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

Anything by Ella Fitzgerald, but especially her live recording from Paris, Pour l'amour d'Ella; Chet Baker's Last Great Concert, also recorded live; Eileen Farrell's brilliant, I got a right to sing the blues; and a real go-to disc is Boston's Boston album!

4. Music that makes you cry _ any genre:

Choral music.

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

The great Spanish canciones of so many overlooked Spanish composers (Obradors, Montsalvatge, etc)

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

This is a hard one! I honestly can't come up with any.... I'll have to sleep on it!

7. Live music performance (s) you attended _ any genre _ that you'll never forget:

My 18th birthday night was spent in the 9th row of a Billy Joel concert. I LOVED Billy Joel and secretly dreamed to sing back up for him at some point _ getting into the 9th row and screaming along with him to every single song he played was as close as I have gotten. (Yet!) I also handed him a bouquet of carnations, which lay on his piano for the 2nd half of the concert!!! I thought I had arrived!

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

Harvey Milk; Frost/Nixon; Ironman!

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9. A few films you consider classics:

Arsenic and Old Lace; the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove; The Sting; Cool Hand Luke; Ordinary People

10. A book (or two) that is important to you (and why):

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is one of the most powerful novels I've read that continues to inspire me with the thought of the underdog and the inherent dignity in human beings.

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

Oh, this is hard to answer! If pushed, I suppose it would be that I broke out of the (Midwestern, Catholic) box I believed I was supposed to live in.

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

I have strange feet, which means I fall down a lot, and yes, even on stage _ although now I get much less embarrassed by falling, because I'm quite used to it at this point!

13. Three things you can't live without:

Aside from the basics of food and oxygen, I would say my husband, my computer, and the arts.

14. "When I want to get away from it all I..."

Take a massage. (I'd like to say I "go on safari", but I've only done that once, so I can't really say I've made a habit of it!)

15. "People are surprised to find out that I..."

Can swing a baseball bat pretty well.

16. "My favorite cities are..."

Paris. New York. San Francisco. Kansas City. Florence.

17. "I have a secret crush on..."

Just my husband.

18. "My most obvious guilty pleasure is..."

Cookie Dough.

19. "I'd really love to meet _ or to have met..."

President George Bush _ the second one, just to say, "Really? No, seriously... REALLY?"

20. "I never understood why..."

He got elected a second time.


21. Question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer to that question):

Q: How did it feel to win the Academy Award and Grammy in the same year?

A: Oh, it was marvelous, thank you!

For DiDonato news and complete performance schedule visit www.joycedidonato.com

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Pianist Yefim "Fima" Bronfman

Soprano Sandrine Piau

Soprano Natalie Dessay

Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Tenor Giuseppe Filianoti

Soprano Nicole Cabell

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Tenor Ian Bostridge

Soprano Danielle de Niese

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird 

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor 

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs. 

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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