DiDonato Triumphs with Rossini

United StatesUnited States Aspen Music Festival (5): Joyce DiDonato (soprano), David Zobel (piano). 23.7.2013 (HS)

Obradors: Selections from Canciones clásicas españolas
Giacomelli: “Sposa son disprezzara,” from La Merope
Mozart: “Voi che sapete,” from Le Nozze di Figaro
Mozart: “Deh vieni, non tardar,” from Le Nozze di Figaro
Rossini: “Una voce poca fa,” from Il barbiere di Siviglia
Rossini: “Assisa a piè d’un salice,” from Otello
Hahn: “Venezia”
Donaudy: “O del mio amato ben”
Di Chiara: “La Spagnola”

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato made a long-overdue Aspen Music Festival debut Tuesday night in Harris Hall in a recital that ranged from intimate art songs to flamboyant opera arias. DiDonato was at her best when she had something dramatic to sink her teeth into, especially if it involved bel canto coloratura by Rossini, her speciality.

Her predilection for Rossini was evident in a nice little group of arias, two from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and one from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. Although she was inspired by the countess in Mozart being the same character as Rosina in Rossini, the mezzo did not attempt any of the countess’s soprano-range music, instead showing off her stage acting by transforming herself into a teenage boy for “Voi che sapete,” Cherubino’s little song, and a smart maid in “Deh vieni, non tardar,” Susanna’s Act IV charmer. But she trumped ’em both in becoming the teenage spitfire in Rosina’s “Una voce poco fa.”

Clearly coloratura is her game. She can use the florid phrases not only to display her vocal chops but to amp up the drama. Thus, her best moments came in stupendous Rossini arias, including a heart-rending willow song from his Otello, and her final encore, “Tanti affetti,” the showpiece finale from La Donna del Lago. She displayed vocal agility, gorgeous tone and winning personality.

A lovely set of Venice songs by Reynaldo Hahn offered enough theatricality to make them the best of the art songs, delineating the wistful sexual undertones of “La Barcheta” and portraying a cigar-smoking old man overlooking a canal in “Che pecà.” But she never got her feet under her for a set of Obradors’ highly perfumed Spanish songs, nor enough soulfulness for a couple of Neapolitan songs. Pianist David Zobel’s dry-as-bones accompaniments didn’t help.

Harvey Steiman