The West Australian
Concern for role of artistWilliam Yeoman
“It’s impossible to be an artist and not reflect on how your art is or isn’t commenting on or contributing to the state of the world.”
DiDonato was motivated to assemble the program after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. She had been planning an exploratory album with an emphasis on rare arias but in the light of the tragic events she rethought her approach, giving it wider and deeper implications.
“We sit up in this kind of gilded castle as opera singers, living in the past and walking amongst masterpieces from composers such as Mozart and Handel and Verdi,” she says. “Yet all of those composers were working in the context of their time and commenting on their world. I just thought it was time for me to offer something to my audience. And that is a message of hope.”
The album was recorded with the orchestra Il Pomo d’Oro under its principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev.
The program comprises 15 arias divided into two sections: War, and Peace. Both contain music by Purcell and Handel — including, to close War, Dido’s heart-rending lament from Dido and Aeneas, and Almirena’s heartbreaking Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo.
An excerpt from Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse is included in Peace, which section concludes with Cleopatra’s spirited and defiantly optimistic Da tempeste il legno infranto from Giulio Cesare.
When baroque opera was at its height, it was famously described by English writer Dr Samuel Johnson as “an exotic and irrational entertainment which has always been combated, and always has prevailed”. It is nearly three centuries since he made that judgment but opera has continued to prevail — by impassioning performers and thrilling and moving audiences.
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