In War and Peace
Harmony through Music
Il Pomo d’Oro
Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor
«The pendulum of human history has swung continuously between despair and hope, horror and bliss, chaos and tranquillity. We are a restless bunch, prone to desperation, isolation and violence in some moments, and yet, mercifully, to optimism and generosity in others. […] Art unifies, transcends borders, connects the disconnected, eliminates status, soothes turmoil, threatens power and the status-quo, and gloriously exalts the spirit. Art is a valiant path to peace».
With these words Joyce DiDonato presents her album In War and Peace. Harmony through Music, a new exploration of the Baroque repertoire for the mezzosoprano after Furore and Drama Queens. This recording that has two main purposes: the first is intriguing on an intellectual level, because the music of Georg Friedrich Handel, Henry Purcell, Leonardo Leo, Niccolò Jommelli and Claudio Monteverdi expresses the conflicts of the human soul, with an attempt to show how the feelings of ancient characters are so close to those we may feel in our own life and times; the second is significative from the music point of view, as In War and Peace includes the world premiere recordings of one aria from Leo’s Andromaca and two from Jommelli’s Attilio Regolo. The last in particular is a kind of a revelation and the first of the two arias DiDonato sings in the album (which is actually the aria from the opera’s second act, Sprezza il furor del vento) is not only a wonderful synthesis of tempestuous feelings, but also one of the best examples of her robust, fearless singing, incomparable in coloratura and unmistakable for energetic temperament. DiDonato’s voice has become purer in the course of the years and now, more beautiful than ever, is the perfect instrument to show the richness of her inspiration.
An extraordinary sensitivity allows DiDonato to express clearly different moods and feelings, so that every character retains its own individuality and cannot be mistaken for another, while on a general level this depth develops the dichotomy between war and peace and shapes feelings that belong to the former and to the latter. DiDonato has the psychological flexibility and the meanings to give voice to Andromaca’s fury in Prendi quel ferro, o barbaro to the sweetness of Almirena in Augelletti che cantate, to the innocence of the Girl who asks herself Why should men quarrel? with disarming, sad astonishment in Purcell’s The Indian Queen, to the delicacy of Susanna in Lead me, oh lead me to some cool retreat and to the vivacity of Par che di giubilo, again from Attilio Regolo.
On the whole, the arias develop the message in harmonious contrast, but are musical jewels by their own right. It is impossible not to be charmed by Penelope’s quiet Illustratevi o cieli from Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria, where DiDonato’s voice becomes silvery to create a peculiar moment, almost a pause, that finds no equal in the entire album. The greatest surprise is anyway the last aria, the famous Da tempeste il legno infranto from Handel’s Giulio Cesare, that DiDonato sings with rare charm and self-assurance and embellishes with fabulous variations in the da capo.
A great voice and an important message are successfully combined in In War and Peace to create an impressive album that is virtually flawless and that is an amazing experience from any point of view.