1. The Rubber Band
After watching a clip of Joyce singing the lead of Cendrillon, the beloved Dame was quick to praise the seeming effortlessness of her delivery. As Baker put it, it's as if each note (high or low), that flew out of DiDonato's throat was connected to the next by "a rubber band," which seemed to expand just slightly to support a glowing stratospheric top register and loosened a bit (just a bit) to sustain the power and pull of some smoky chest tones. If there's a better way to describe the allure of the DiDonato phenomenon, then her fans, myself included, have yet to come up with it.
DiDonato takes every opportunity to remind her students of what she knows and demonstrates better than most, the fact that opera singers serve music, not (too dedicatedly) ego; but in conversation with Dame Janet she stated several truisms which place the responsibility of a quality operatic performance, one that is true to the emotional concept of its composers, in the hands of directors and designers as well. If an artistic cohesion between every component-- the most important being the composition, itself-- is not the aim at all times of everyone involved, the simple fact is, according to Joyce, that "opera shouldn't exist at all." Strong words, but can any true opera crazy disagree?
3. The Glass
One of the metaphors Dame Janet Baker used throughout the evening that fascinated DiDonato the most, one that has fascinated her since their last video-recorded conversation in 2013, concerns what Baker calls "The Glass." It's no secret that actors or singers must perform onstage as if their audience exists in a parallel dimension, but as Baker understands better than most, the relationship between performer and viewer/hearer is about give and take. Artists work to inspire or indulge others, and that means allowing said others in on the secret behind the art they perform, the secret little passionate person and intention behind the voice. As Baker puts it, the "glass," a kind of transparent metaphorical wall that forms as a performer suppresses reaction to the expressions of his or her audience, becomes clearer over time as a singer's interpretive abilities develop and clean away the smudges on the emotions and ideas put into music that begs close attention to detail. In her opinion, DiDonato has wiped away quite a bit more off her interpretations of Rossini's and Handel's (and Mascagni's, which I write just to fill in a gap... What?) music than most of DiDonato's contemporaries have off theirs.
Joyce DiDonato has dedicated her time and energy to increasing opera's audience because she believes it's some of the best music in the world, because it represents to her (and, indeed, to all ardent opera fans) everything about being human. Baker smiles on the importance of bringing the truth about opera to the attention of young people and other maybe-I'll-try-it-in-another-lifetime-ers everywhere, knowing that there's nothing better than the potential for everyone's coming to adore the amazingest of the performing arts. Yes, it's the amazingest. You'll be seeing a lot more of that word on this site over the next few years. However, DiDonato has not only done her best to illustrate the relevance of opera to modern life, but she has also used the power of music to unite separate lives as a way of expressing her empathy. A couple of months ago, she performed at New York City's Stonewall Inn in response to the Orlando massacre.
If it seems as if I've just done a lot of cheap gushing here, well, maybe I have. Plenty of it. Baker and DiDonato seemed unable to help doing the very same thing themselves every so often throughout their conversation, if one can call words of praise exchanged in comradeship cheap. I hope you've enjoyed this feature, my friends, and I hope you'll come around for the next on Everyone's Opera. I've embedded the video of DiDonato's interview with Baker below. Until later, happy operatic insanity!