‘Into the Light’ – Joyce DiDonato brings music to Buenos Aires

ArgentinaArgentina Purcell, Handel, Rossini, Wagner, Piaf, Hart: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo-soprano) accompanied by Craig Terry (piano). For Mozarteum Argentino at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires. 6.12.2021. (JSJ)

Joyce DiDonato in ‘Into the Light’ with Craig Terry (piano) (c) Liliana Morsia

Purcell – ‘Music for a while’
Handel – ‘As with rosy steps the morn’ (from Theodora)
RossiniGiovanna d’Arco
WagnerWesendonck Lieder
Edith Piaf – ‘La vie en rose’
Lorenz Hart – ‘With a song in my heart’ 

For Mozarteum Argentino’s first and last concert in two years, we were lucky once again to enjoy the presence of American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

This her fifth presentation for the organisation seemed particularly appropriate, given that her fourth was its last concert back in October 2019. At the time its theme ‘War and Peace’ seemed appropriate to the then prevailing local political climate, although of course there was no hint to the ‘war’ that would ensue under dictatorial governments subsequently.

Her theme for this new concert, ‘Into the Light’, is equally appropriate to the situation of the day – and a great deal of thought went into selecting its programme, DiDonato said in heartfelt words referring to the important and unifying role of music in life and especially at this time when life is returning to some semblance of normality.

The programme with the first three items in the first half and the others in the second, speaks for itself – the first half somewhat tempered and introspective in tone giving way in the second to an opening up to gaiety and a looking forward.

Like DiDonato’s programmes tend to be, the items, with perhaps the exception of the Wesendonck Lieder, are unusual and varied for a recital of this nature – some, such as Rossini’s formidable cantata Giovanna d’Arco rarely performed in any circumstance. But it worked and there can have been few among the less than full audience who were not transported, metaphorically at least ‘into the light’.

Joyce DiDonato is of course a consummate artist, in full control of every note and emotion and as comfortable across the range of genres. The aforementioned Giovanna d’Arco was particularly notable with the breadth of feeling it demands.

In this she was effectively supported – once again – by Craig Terry with a sensitive and versatile hand on the piano to make up an integral part of the whole.

While we as audience might bemoan the lack of live music over much of the past two years, it is easy to forget that the performers have no less missed not only making the music but also the connection with their audiences, as DiDonato alluded to and expressing it with what felt like a sense of catharsis in her encore, ‘Crude furie’ from Handel’s Serse – the first of no less than four encores that we were given!

Mozarteum Argentino scored something of a coup for music in Buenos Aires with this concert and all things being equal, it has a programme lined up for 2022 – its 70th season – as exciting as ever.

Jonathan Spencer Jones

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