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Three Centuries of Italian Love Songs: Joyce DiDonato (mezzo soprano) David Zobel (piano)  Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona. 24.1.2010. (JMI)

The American mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato is touring Europe with a concert series and she arrived in Barcelona from Madrid, where she sang a few days earlier. Her chosen program was a walk through three centuries of vocal history with the theme of love as the motive for the songs. Just a couple of the pieces were opera arias while the rest consisted of songs by no less than 17 different composers, ranging from Giulio Caccini (1546-1618) through to Elena Barbara Giuranna (1902-1998). All the songs were sung in Italian.

I had some doubts about the programme’s suitability for a theatre as large as Barcelona’s Liceu, since almost all the songs seemed more appropriate for a small concert hall. And since Ms DiDonato is famous particularly for her interpretations of Rossini opera, which needs lots of virtuosity and coloratura, here the 25 songs she offered were diametrically opposite. They needed expressiveness more than anything else, and an almost complete absence of fireworks, probably not exactly what her many fans were expecting from her. However, Joyce DiDonato not only triumphed magnificently, but also graciously recognized what her some of public expected by offering "Voi che sapete" from Nozze di Figaro, and "Tanti Afetti" from La Donna del Lago as encores.

Joyce DiDonato sang everything with enormous good taste and luxurious expressiveness. There is no doubt that her great sympathy and spontaneity achieved a great level of communication with the theatre, which was filled to about three-quarters of its capacity. Worthy of note were the performances of "Amarilli mia bella" by Giulio Caccini, where she offered  beautiful piani, as well as  "Nel cor non più mi sento" from La Molinara by Giovanni Paisiello, where she was truly excellent. Also outstanding was her rendering of "Assisa a’pie d’un salice" from Rossini's Otello. In the second part she offered a magnificent interpretation of four songs by Francesco Santoliquido, particularly the last one "L'incontro". Hard to beat was the grace and intention she exhibited in the two songs by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Lolita’s “Serenata Spagnola” by Arthur Buzzi-Peccia was another particularly bright moment in the recital. She ended  the formal program with the well known song “La Spagnola” by Vincenzo Di Chiara, where she truly raised the temperature of the entireLiceu. As encores she offered Cherubino’s aria mentioned above, where she was truly spectacular as both singer and actress and from La donna del Lago she offered all the fireworks that many in the house were expecting from her. She was at her very best through the entire evening and her best is a  very high standard indeed.

A magnificent singer then, an extraordinary artist and a controversial program, crowned with fireworks from encores that sparked huge enthusiasm from the audience. Marvellous.

José  M  Irurzun

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