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Joyce DiDonato, with a small ensemble, blend italian art song with the american songbook / KDFC

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Interview with KDFC's Jeff Weyr

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato says the balance for the heaviness of the past two years, when she's been touring an emotional ‘War and Peace' program, is her new project, called Songplay. She and her accompanist, Craig Terry are joined by a small ensemble of jazz players as they revisit a blend of Italian art songs and the American songbook. "I think it was really the perfect time," she says, "to break out of the darkness a little bit and come into the joy of just singing a great song."

Some of the repertoire might be especially familiar to voice students, since Joyce DiDonato says Craig Terry suggested reworking the selections from a collection that's often their first dive into solo repertoire. "These 24 Italian Art Songs, that every young singer starts off with, and almost every singer butchers terribly right at the outset. And so as a result we end up growing to really hate these songs. And he said, ‘But I think that's a real pity, because they're very charming, and you know, I've been playing around with this idea, and can I play you something?' And he starts off with Caro Mio Ben, and all of a sudden, under my vocal line, he changes direction, and he goes into this bluesy, ballad, jazz world. And somehow my voice knew exactly where he was going and it followed him. And it was so organic and so… It's like somebody turned a spectrum of light onto the song." It's not just those songs, though. They chose songs that they loved that might work together, whenever they were written. "In many ways we're sort of singing the same song across the centuries. You know, I look at a piece like Tu Lo Sai, which is this haunting, beautiful aria about somebody not understanding how much they are loved, and that seemed to pair beautifully with the [Duke] Ellington Solitude, which is all about loneliness and isolation and longing.  And these two songs in essence seem like the same piece to me, so I thought it was kind of a fun idea to bridge these two worlds and fuse them together by interspersing them on the same project."  

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A selection from Songplay is the KDFC Download of the Week for subscribers to our eNotes newsletter