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ARCHIVE: Houston Grand Opera (November 2019)

Originally published 11/7/2019


Last evening, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato presented “In War & Peace – Harmony Through Music” at Cullen Theater. She was joined by the baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, led by Maxim Emelyanychev. The program primarily featured works by Henry Purcell and George Frederic Handel, along with a topless male dancer.


The spectacular Il Pomo d’Oro gave unusually dynamic, expressive, and energetic support. From the very first notes, it was clear this was no ordinary baroque ensemble, such as those typically producing rather dull sounds with questionable intonation. Under the animated direction of conductor and harpsichordist Emelyanychev, the musicians produced nuanced dynamics and articulations that did not simply conform to conventional rehearsal-time limited fare. Cornetto, flute, and violin solos were exceptionally beautiful.


This program has been performed 42 times in 22 countries by musicians from 10 different countries. We are most fortunate to have it performed here in Houston, where Joyce joined the Houston Grand Opera Studio in 1996. In 1998, she appeared in HGO’s Resurrection by Tod Machover and Mark Adamo’s Little Women in 1999. I was principal viola in the HGO orchestra at the time and recall not only how special her voice was but how modest she was about her gift.


If anyone can deliver a message of love and peace, it is Joyce DiDonato– a beautiful and sincere human being with a gorgeous voice. Whether singing or speaking, as she did at the program’s conclusion, there is never any doubt as to her sincerity and genuineness. Only a stone would not be moved by her expressiveness. The audience was unified in loving her, with that common bond providing the springboard for loving one another. A card in the printed program asks “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” One way, Joyce, is to hear your message.

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