Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato Performs Recital at Granada

UCSB Arts and Lectures Presented the Met Opera Star on April 15

David Bazemore

Two things became clear on the whirlwind tour through multiple languages, countries, and centuries that was Joyce DiDonato’s recital program at the Granada on Sunday, April 15: This woman loves to sing, and she loves singers. The evening’s eclecticism remained firmly grounded throughout in the deep connection that DiDonato feels for students of voice. From the opening strains of Pablo Luna’s lovelorn celebration of Spanish identity, “De España vengo,” to the rambunctious embellishments of Arie Antiche’s musical education standards as arranged by pianist Craig Terry, everything on the program seemed designed to appeal to an audience familiar with the arduous, at times heartbreaking journey of a classically trained vocalist.

DiDonato’s smooth and dreamy approach to Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade served as a reminder not only of the delicacy and sophistication of the French tradition but also of its complex relationship to the Arab world. Fans of the Metropolitan Opera got a taste of what’s on at present when DiDonato sang “Seule, je partirai, mon père,” an aria from her current starring role there in Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon.

The evening’s undisputed high point came when DiDonato performed a song from George Friedrich Handel’s Rinaldo. She introduced the piece, “Lascia ch’io pianga,” by saying that Handel is her favorite composer, and then ensured that, at least for the next five minutes or so, he became the favorite composer of everyone in the audience as well. A pair of well-chosen encores — Irving Berlin’s jaunty “I Love a Piano” and Harold Arlen’s immortal “Over the Rainbow” — sent us all home floating on musical clouds of joy.