Joyce DiDonato / David Zobel - Wigmore Hall, 6 September 2008
Vivaldi Col piacer della mia fede from Arsilda, Regina di Ponto; Vedro con mio diletto from Il giustino; Da quel ferro che ha svenato from Il Farnace
Chausson Hébé; Sérénade; Le colibri; Les papillons
Turina Poema en forma de canciones
Copland 8 songs from 12 Songs of Emily Dickinson: Nature, the gentlest mother; There came a wind like a bugle; Why do they shut me out of heaven?; The world feels dusty; Dear March, come in!; Sleep is supposed to be; Going to heaven; The chariot;
Gershwin The Man I Love; By Strauss
Encores - Strauss Composers Aria (Sein wir wieder gut) from Ariadne auf Naxos; Handel Ombra mai fu; Arlen Somewhere over the Rainbow
No-one seems to know (or even really care) whether this year's Royal Opera House opening night-proper is the originally announced 10 September performance or the recently added Sun reader special on the 8 September. Unlike the ROH to miss a wallet-squeezing trick, but it's all a far cry from the hot-breathed anticipation (and gala prices) for the Met's couture-bedecked Reneethon.
But the start of the Wigmore Hall season remains a bit of an Occasion. In an understated way of course. Free drinks for everyone and an extra-long intermission was about as far as it went.
Joyce DiDonato, diva-proper in a clinging black strapless gown with seaweedy ruffles, wasn't going to ease us in with anything too light and frothy. In fact, her programme was pretty audience-challenging stuff, only the Chausson and Gershwin generally familiar. You'd never guess she'd made her name with Rossini, but perhaps that was the point.
The Copland Emily Dickinson settings at the centre of the evening are an acquired taste that I haven't acquired. In the middle of the group, the insouciance of Dear March, come in! was a breath of fresh air between the dour introspection of the rest. So few singers are able to able to do humour effectively (that is, without making you cringe with embarrassment for them) that it was a shame that Joyce, one of the rare few who can, buckled down and got serious for so much of her programme.
Her next gig is the aforementioned is-it-isn't-it Covent Garden season-starter Don Giovanni. Her opening Vivaldi arias - a standard template fast one, slow one and a mad one - provided a hint of the steel she may bring to Donna Elvira. And I was captivated by the her way with the contrastingly languorous Chausson group, the lines spun out on a silver thread.
Her final Gershwin songs supplied the air of festivity that the earlier part of the evening, for all its accomplishment, had lacked. She's a big Judy Garland fan (as she revealed during her encores) who shares Judy's uninhibited joy in performance, and communicates most directly with her audience when freed from the shackles of recital etiquette. Even in the Temple of Song, sometimes it pays to let your hair down.
Joyce is, by the way, a hugely entertaining (and diligent) blogger herself - check out her blog on yankeediva.blogspot.com.
And the recital was recorded for broadcast on Radio 3 on 22 October.
Photo of David Zobel and Joyce DiDonato from Joyce's website, joycedidonato.com: