Joyce DiDonato Antonio Pappano Joyce & Tony Live at Wigmore HallJoyce & Tony. Live at Wigmore Hall

Joyce DiDonato, mezzosoprano

Antonio Pappano, piano

Erato, 2015

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Joyce & Tony is the live recording of Joyce DiDonato and Antonio Pappano’s opening concert of the 2014-2015 season of the Wigmore Hall in London. The programme is quite original. It begins with Arianna a Naxos by Franz Joseph Haydn and features among its pieces Gioacchino Rossini’s La danza and I canti della sera (written in 1907) of the Neapolitan composer Francesco Santoliquido, now almost forgotten, later it focuses on the musical, with two songs from Show Boat (Cant’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man and Life Upon a Wicked Stage), All the Things You Are from Very Warm for May and two songs which were sung by Judy Garland, I Love a Piano (from Easter Parade), Over the Rainbow (from The Wizard of Oz) and many others.

I confess that this is not the kind of music I prefer, but I liked the album nonetheless. I also noticed one thing that has made me think: Joyce DiDonato’s voice is enormous and, having had the opportunity to listen to her in the theatre and then discarding the hypothesis that this result is to be ascribed to some miraculous microphone, I have to conclude that perhaps the recording does not give full justice to the singer and that here you can listen only to a pale reflection of the performance.

There is another, rather funny thing and this is the cover. If there is ever been a cover which would do justice to the spirit of the recording, this is exactly the right one: if you listen to Pappano, you really get the impression that the piano keys fly away for his playing, which is fluid and has a clear tip of wit and fun. The DiDonato on the cover is far too “sharp”, but her attitude reminds somehow of her singing and helps to imagine her on stage (some jokes with Pappano, which you can guess from short statements and from the laughter of the audience, complete the picture).

DiDonato’s first aria is a rarity, the aforementioned Arianna a Naxos, which lasts nearly twenty minutes and that is remarkable because this long lapse of time allows the mezzosoprano to highlight a variety of moods: sorrow (for the abandon of the lover, needless to say) in the first part, with its subdued beginning, almost imperceptible, to turn gradually into an uncontrollable fury, which DiDonato portrays vividly. It is this strong personality, this irrepressible temperament that makes the recording irresistible and that is also felt in Rossini’s La danza, which here finds one of its most brilliant interpreters. I like also to point out, for contrast’s sake, the delicacy that she demonstrates instead in Go Little Boat (in the same piece, Pappano makes “liquid” the piano sound) and the two songs Life Upon The Wicked Stage and I Love a Piano, where DiDonato shows her musical verve.

I suggest Joyce & Toni to all those who look for a pleasant and unusual recording.

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