Among the tags YouTube recommended for this video were both “domingo” and “unicorn.” I can see “domingo” since “domingo” does have an association with opera, albeit not with any of the specific items on this disc, but “unicorn” I will admit to finding puzzling. “Joyce DiDonato” contains some of the same letters as “unicorn” but then again, so do “Joan Didion” and “cuneiform” so I think that line of reasoning is probably a dead end. It’s YouTube, not Scrabble. Also, I can pretty much guarantee you that if a maiden goes into the woods and sits under a tree, she is not going to end up with Joyce DiDonato on her lap. This is proof that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds.
Anyway. This is a great recital CD. I picked this aria to write about because I liked it. DiDonato’s Vitellia is somewhere between ‘ironic detachment Vitellia’ and ‘tearing her clothes off and painting herself gray’ Vitellia (this latter is awfully specific, I know, but it has been done at least once). And really, is it possible to have too much Vitellia? I think not.
The impression DiDonato gives of Vitellia is of the latter feeling an almost physical horror at what she has done. It’s not just a sense of having made a mistake, or having miscalculated – if Vitellia could back away from herself, she would. DiDonato’s voice is perfect for this. I am all for sopranos, but that mezzo quality really works here, both in terms of the color of the voice and in terms of simple range: sopranos often sound like they’re being stretched on those low notes towards the end, and our ladies of the slightly longer vocal cords do not.
DiDonato is wonderful at conveying drama through the sound and phrasing alone. At the ‘veggo la morte ver mi avanzar’ around 3.30 to 3.40, and again at the ‘qual orrore’ around 4.30 you can almost see how she would do it on stage, it’s that expressive – there are gestures in the singing.
And there is also some really expressive orchestral playing here. The intervals in the strings at just past 2.00 come out with beautiful clarity and urgency, for example. And the basset horn is almost speaking to her at 2.30-50 or at 5.24 towards the last repetitions of ‘chi vedesse’. It’s rather like with the Countess and the orchestra in ‘dove sono’ – the little flutters and movements of emotion that the character is feeling and that are beyond words to communicate happen between the vocal line and the orchestra, and this comes through best when you have top-notch orchestral playing.