Friday, July 9, 2010


Cracking up

She is, isn't she? And I find the more time I spend with her, the more striking I find her features. The shading, the subtlety, the refinement - the simplicity of her composition and demeanor. I discovered she's actually wearing a veil - something I never noticed about her before, until I used a telephoto lens to study her. It's there - it's amazing.

Unknown hands

She really does take your breath away.

Speaking of striking, I should be warming up right about now for my "prima" here in Milan. As you most likely know, a "sciopera" has gripped the Teatro alla Scala for the evening and our performance has been canceled. (Note: You can have a refund of your tickets until July 17!!!) I think I understand to a large extent how disappointing it must be for the people who held tickets for tonight's show. My heart truly goes out to you. It's also extremely disappointing to myself - an artist - who gives up a lot of her life to perform for you - the public - to have a performance taken away. I don't profess to understand either side of the argument. It seems to me, as is almost always the case, both sides have valid points, and both sides could make some concessions - I just personally hate to see the public dragged into the fight, where art seems to be the main casualty. I suppose those involved feel it is their most powerful weapon, so I understand their desire to use it, but history seems to show that it seldom brings results, which makes me question the productivity of it all. But I'm not Italian, this isn't my country, nor my theater - I have no say in the matter, which feels quite strange - but I respect that this is the way things work. I only hope that both sides can find a way to work productively together, for art deserves so much more, and God only knows how desperately we need art in our lives these days!

Regardless, please know that I will do my best to give the fullest performance I can, should we ever be given the chance to perform! (On a side note, there have been a few changes here at the theater, one including a few additional performances for me: I'll now be singing on the 10th and 13th, as well as my regular scheduled shows...)

I have to say that it's funny working on this Ponnelle production! The production is older than I am, and all the greatest Rossini singers of the past 4 decades have participated in the epic staging, so I feel a real sense of entering an historic masterpiece, rich in legacy and tradition.

It's challenging, however, because opera has changed quite a lot in the past 40 years, and having participated in the creation of a number of new productions, often with a very modern twist to them, it is fascinating to return to a time where things were much simpler. It is quite hard for me to sing the Lesson Scene in a cut version (as I'm a fierce proponent for what a brilliant dramatic scene it creates in its entirety), and the idea of not singing the recitative with Bartolo where she swears revenge on "Lindoro" and asks Bartolo to marry her is near sacrilege to me! But this is the original Ponnelle version (except they've included the now mandatory tenor aria), and there is something beautiful about stepping into the simple clockwork and choreography he created so many years ago. This Rosina is a classic, and I'm glad I will have the chance (strikes permitting!) to add this kind of approach to my repertoire of "Vipera's"!!!

One benefit to the strike is that I had a free day today, which is the first grouping of 2 days in a row that have been free for me in MONTHS! I am not complaining about that in the least, and have relished sleeping in late, getting back to some yoga, catching up on the backload of emails, and simply catching my breath! Ah, I do believe I needed it!

Hope to be in great form tomorrow night - it's not every night one gets to debut an iconic role at an iconic theater. I better stop talking about it and thinking about it - that'll make me nervous!

Hope you all are finding a way to stay cool wherever you are!



Willym said...

I am sorry that you and your colleagues have become embroiled in what is happening here. It is

difficult for us non-Italians to understand and frankly most of my Italian friends can't explain it either.

I know that whatever the circumstances you and the rest will give us 100%.

As I remarked earlier I saw this production when it premiered in Salzburg and you are right it is - oh lord - 40 years ago. The cast I saw was Major (Berganza had cancelled I believe), Alva, Prey, Corena, Montarsolo with Abbado at the helm. Not a bad group for the time - now I will get to see the great Rossini singers of this time. How lucky I am.

Sibyl said...

It must be a trial to have to maintain and yet contain the kind of concentration and energy performing requires while wondering when one will be performing. I have a suspicion that you have ample inner resources for the task! And if you have to find yourself with unplanned for free time, I would think Milan isn't a bad place to do it. Crossed fingers...

Raisa said...

I only wish I could be there tomorrow to enjoy your La Scala Rosina.
Absolutely love the scenery. I guess, the conservative old-fashionista in me misses the good old detailed and traditional set.
TOI TOI TOI for tomorrow.

(We had 110 F in Baltimore yesterday, but we are doing the best we can to stick around the AC and keep a strict diet of ice-cream and lemonade).

Chris said...

You can still see the original Ponnelle production (1972) on tape (and DVD?) with Prey, Berganza and Alva (the Florez of his day) and it is quite marvelous. It seems so "comfortable" and natural in contrast to some recent stagings with garish costumes (Madrid) and tricky sets (New York). Someone described it as an operatic ballet, and in a sense it is.

Best wishes for some happy performances.


William V. Madison said...

I'm glad that you're finding some solace in art -- and in the Mona Lisa especially. Whenever I take friends and godchildren to the Louvre, I make the point that it isn't enough to want to see her because she's famous (which is the motive of 99.44% of the folks who go); I always ask them to tell me why the painting is good. I get some terrific responses — and none more terrific than yours.

Mei said...

It's funny... one can say sciopera when the sciopero takes place at La Scala... :p

marcillac said...

Hmmm. Its certainly the case that there is a ... err ... "challanging" dynamic associated with singing at La Scala and in Italy generally. No place is perfect and that may be "the way things work" but the unfortunate conclusion must be that they do not always work that well and it is hardly surprising that the birthplace of opera is no longer its mecca. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the conflicting parties the one certainty is that artists and fans get royally #%@&^!. La Scala remains La Scala of course and this enables them to engage people like Joyce Di Donato and perhaps even to actually stage performances where the theaters' patrons can hear and see them. In any event I wish you, your castmates and the ticket holders lots of luck. Unfortunately you may need it.

At least they can be fully confident of your complete commitment if they actually do get to see you. This is not at all uniform in the field and, as I've said before, very much appreciated.

That is a great picture of the Mona Lisa and a far better view than us mortals get when we actually make the invariably and progressively (the mobs get noticeably worse every few years) futile attempt to see her at the Louvre.

On the subject of DaVinci and your being in Milan I do hope you have a chance to see the Last Suppe,r another genuinely remarkable masterpiece.


kilted2000 said...

I was there on the 10th so I was glad to see you perform. Seeing you was the main reason I went to Milan in the first place. I did end up having to walk from the Duomo to the Central Station due to strikes on the 9th. I have this production on DVD so I look forward to reliving it.

Ysabel said...

Joyce, saw you on the 12th and you were spectacular (and I was wondering what happened to that recitative, thanks for clearing that up); the applause went on forever for Una Voce, didn't it? The Italians love you! I'm so lucky the strikes didn't interfere with the performance I had tickets for. Thanks for the show, I had a great time!

adrianaluvsing said...

Thank you Joyce always for your insights! Blessings always ;)

Benata said...

I was at the performance on the 15th. My first time at La Scala. I enjoyed very much the performance. It was thrilling to be in this theatre with all this heritage!
I am very lucky this year because I could see you 3 times: in Paris -the recital at TCE, La donna del lago and then at La Scala! Thank you for your wonderful singing!

Nathan said...

I *love love love* Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's operatic creations, especially a glorious film of La Cenerentola starring Frederica von Stade, but I think it's rather backward to keep old cuts going simply because one is using his production, and I don't think he'd approve either.