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In War & Peace ‒ Harmony Through Music
Joyce DiDonato (mezzo‒soprano)
Il Pomo d'Oro/Maxim Emelyanychev
rec. 13/20 March 2016 Gustav Mahler Hall, Kulturzentrum, Grand Hotel Toblach, Italy
Full sung texts and translations provided in English, Italian, French and German
ERATO 9029 592846 [79.12]

For her new album, Joyce DiDonato has journeyed to the South Tyrol of Northern Italy to the celebrated recording venue the Gustav Mahler Hall at the Grand Hotel Toblach. Here mezzo-soprano DiDonato has selected fifteen opera arias from Baroque composers, seven from Handel, four from Purcell, two from Jommelli and one each from Leo and Monteverdi. Divided into two sections on the distinct and contrasting themes of ‘War’ and ‘Peace’ the inspiration behind this album is a laudable one. In the midst of the terrible atrocities currently being perpetrated DiDonato hopes to promote issues concerning world peace and poses the question “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?”

DiDonato has put a great deal of energy into the promotion of this issue; I heard her on the radio twice yesterday and have read several interviews already this week. But is this album worth all the media attention - well it certainly is! DiDonato’s singing has a remarkably consistent artistic and technical quality with riveting clarity of characterisation. The Baroque repertoire contained on ‘In War & Peace’ is outstanding and comprises a judiciously chosen selection of arias, including several much loved favourites, giving considerable emphasis to rare works several of which are certainly new to me.

Moving effortlessly between alto and soprano ranges all the arias are sung by DiDonato with bewitching expression, style and impeccable technique, especially her accomplished coloratura. The most famous arias are Purcell’s Dido’s Lament, ‘When I am laid in earth’ from Dido and Aeneas, so intensely sad as Dido prepares for death and Almirena’s heart rending Lascia ch’io pianga (Let me Weep) from Handel’s Rinaldo. Of the three world première recordings stated on the album, a real find is Regolo’s aria ‘Sprezza il furor del vento’ from Neapolitan composer Jommelli’s Attilio Regolo taken at a near-frantic pace and overflowing with coloratura which DiDonato negotiates with style. Another highlight is DiDonato’s rendering of Penelope’s ‘Illustratevi, o cieli’ from Monteverdi’s Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria relating the pain of parting so remarkably effectively. Using period instruments Il Pomo d’Oro, directed from the harpsichord by Maxim Emelyanychev, don’t put a foot wrong providing colourful and stylish playing with an ideal weight that never overpowers the soloist.

The accompanying booklet contains thirty or so opinions given by a range of people, from the well known and those unknown, to the question “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” In addition there is a short note written by DiDonato and also an essay from Simon Heighes. DiDonato sings in both English and Italian and this admirably presented release benefits from full sung texts with translations provided in English, Italian French and German. Recorded in Toblach the sound team has provided reasonably clear sound and a satisfying balance between voice and orchestra.

With her album ‘In War & Peace’ of Baroque opera arias DiDonato goes from strength to strength. One wonders where she will turn for her next project which is eagerly anticipated.
Michael Cookson
Track listing
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
1. Jeptha (1752): ‘Scenes of Horror, scenes of woe’ (Storgè) [5.13]
Leonardo LEO (1694-1744)
2. Andromeda (1742): ‘Prendi quel ferro, o barbaro!’ (Andromaca) [7.16]
world premiere recording
George Frideric HANDEL
3. Giulio Cesare (1724): ‘Vani sono i lamenti…Svegliatevi nel core’ (Sesto) [4.47]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
4. The Indian Queen (1695): ‘They tell us that you mighty powers above’ (Orazia) [4.05]
George Frideric HANDEL
5. Agrippina (1709): ‘Pensieri, voi mi tormentate’ (Agrippina) [6.44]
6. Dido and Aeneas (1689): ‘Thy hand, Belinda…When I am laid in earth’ (Dido) [5.03]
George Frideric HANDEL
7. Rinaldo (1711): ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ (Almirena) [5.32]
8. Bonduca or the British Heroine (1695): ‘Oh! Lead me to some peaceful gloom’ (Bonvica) [3.15]
George Frideric HANDEL
9. Rinaldo (1711): Augelletti che cantate’ (Almirena) [5.36]
Niccolò JOMMELLI (1714-1774).
10. Attilio Regolo (1753): ‘Sprezza il furor del vento’ (Attila) [7.13]
world premiere recording
11. The Indian Queen (1695): ‘Why should men quarrel?’ (A Girl) [1.31]
12. Attilio Regolo (1753): Par che di Giubilo’ (Attilio Regolo) [6.09]
world premiere recording
George Frideric HANDEL
13. Susanna (1749): ‘Lead me, oh lead me to some cool retreat…Crystal streams in murmurs flowing’ (Susanna) [8.21]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
14. Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria (1639/40): Illustratevi, o cieli’ (Penelope) [2.20]
George Frideric HANDEL
15. Giulio Cesare (1724): Da tempeste il legno infranto’ (Cleopatra) [6.02]
ERATO 0190295928469 [79.12]



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