Opera Superstar Joyce DiDonato Gets Playful Feb. 27 at Oberlin

February 13, 2019

Erich Burnett

operatic mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato
Photo credit: Chris Singer

“Songplay” explores original arrangements of music spanning from Italian art song to the American Songbook.

Duke Ellington never shared a stage with Vivaldi or Édith Piaf. But their worlds will collide in a most electrifying way when American opera singer Joyce DiDonato takes the stage in Finney Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 27.

Part of the 2018-19 Artist Recital Series, DiDonato’s Songplay program will be presented in only six cities this winter. Based on DiDonato's newly released album of the same name, the performance will include old Italian melodies like you’ve never heard them before—plus a jazz standard by Ellington and songs by British pianist George Shearing, French chanteuse Piaf, composer/librettist Gene Scheer, and others. Among the highlights are Broadway tunes “With a Song in My Heart,” from the Rodgers and Hart musical Spring is Here, and “Will He Like Me?” from Jerry Bock’s Broadway hit She Loves Me.

Sharing the spotlight are the songs’ inventive arrangements—they are cast in a sort of “classical fusion,” as DiDonato puts it, with jazz and even tango vibes. DiDonato will be joined by legendary jazz players Craig Terry (piano), Chuck Israels (double bass), Jimmy Madison (percussion), Lautaro Greco (bandoneon), and Charlie Porter (trumpet).

An opera superstar at the height of her powers, DiDonato is a two-time Grammy Award winner in the Best Classical Vocal Solo category. Her CD of Berlioz’s Les Troyens was named Gramophone’s Recording of the Year for 2018; also last year, she was presented with Great Britain’s Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera.

Called “perhaps the most potent female singer of her generation” by The New Yorker, DiDonato describes the roots of her Songplay concept in this clip for Warner Classics.

(And while you’re at it, fall under her spell in this charming video of DiDonato in a master class with Oberlin’s own Joshua Blue ’16.)

"Joyce Di Donato's singing ignites the heart and imagination," says Oberlin voice professor Lorraine Manz. "She is an inspiration to her audiences, young or old. Whether in song or on the operatic stage, her artistic communication is transcendent—breaking  boundaries as she goes."

Tickets for Joyce DiDonato’s Songplay are $35 ($30 for seniors, members of the military, and Oberlin alumni and staff); all student tickets are just $10. Get yours by calling 800-371-0178, visit oberlin.edu/artsguide, or stop by Oberlin’s Central Ticket Service at (Nord Performing Arts Annex, 67 N. Main St.) from noon-5 p.m. weekdays.

The Artist Recital Series continues in April will performances by Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski (April 3) and the Spring Quartet (April 17), featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and pianist Leo Genovese.

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