Monday, September 30, 2013

CD Review: 'ReJOYCE! The Best of Joyce DiDonato'

I try to catch mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato wherever she appears, whether at the opera house or concert stage. Her performance in the title role of Gaetano Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda" last season at the Metropolitan Opera was one of the year's high points. The Kansas native was just as effective at her Carnegie Hall concert performing arias from her "Drama Queens" album.

Erato/Warner Classics has just issued "ReJOYCE! The Best of Joyce DiDonato," a 2-CD halloween music collection cd of pieces culled from the Grammy Award-winning singer's first 10 years with the labels.

DiDonato had her admirers come up with the title of the album, select the material, and even provide the album cover photo (by Xenia Varelas). Fortunately, her fans have good taste, though it would be hard to find any sub-par recordings by the artist.

The 31 tracks show off the singer's extraordinary technical facility with florid music as well as her ability to convey the inner turmoil of many of her heroines.

In addition to baroque operas and bel canto works, she has had a fruitful professional relationship with American composer Jake Heggie. There are two selections from his opera "Dead Man Walking," which was one of the singer's early triumphs.

DiDonato portrayed Sister Helen Prejean, who ministered to a prisoner on Death Row. "You've been so good to him and all of us ... Who will walk with me?" is a duet with Frederica von Stade, a star mezzo of the previous generation. (Incidentally, Prejean wrote the words for a piece that Heggie set to music especially for DiDonato. She performed it at her Carnegie Hall solo debut concert.)

Other duet partners on "The Best of" set include Patrizia Ciofi on two Handel works: "Addio mio caro bene" from Handel's "Teseo" and "Io t'abbraccio" from "Rodelinda"; and Anna Netrebko on "Quis est homo" from Rossini's "Stabat Mater."

In fact, there is a generous sampling of Rossini, displaying his lighter ("Una voce poco fa" from "The Barber of Seville") and darker sides ("Tanti affetti in tal momento" from "La donna del lago").

The singer's graceful Mozart style is displayed on arias from "The Marriage of Figaro," "Don Giovanni," and "La clemenza di Tito."

The two show tunes from Rodgers and Hammerstein are the inspirational "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel" and "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music." As with the Heggie pieces, they are reminders of the singer's clear articulation of language.

DiDonato ends the album, as she often does her concerts, with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz." The rendition on the set is a live recording with the Kansas City Symphony conducted by Michael Stern. The song has special meaning for DiDonato since it was the last piece her father heard her perform.

The liner notes contain photos of DiDonato and her fans as well as their comments about her. Personally, I would have preferred translations of the texts since words are especially important for this singer.

If you don't have any of her albums, this collection is a well-balanced introduction.

DiDonato's next New York appearance will be with James Levine conducting the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. The program will include Rossini's "Giovanna d'Arco" (orchestrated by Salvatore Sciarrino) plus Mozart's "Deh, per questo istante solo" and "Non più di fiori" from "La clemenza di Tito."

DiDonato will return to the Met next April and May in "La Cenerentola," Rossini's sparkling version of "Cinderella" with tenor Juan Diego Flórez.

Barry has been a music, theater, and travel writer for over a decade for various publications.

Source: Theepochtimes

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cruz says he


Washington (CNN) - Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon for remarks on the shutdown debate that could potentially last through the night - a dramatic step in defense of his high profile, controversial plan to prevent any funding for Obamacare.

"I intend to speak until I am no longer able to stand," he said.

Source: CNN Political Ticker

Sunday, September 22, 2013

NEW YORK - The secret of Mariano Rivera's career is that he is not a closer, but a middle act. Metallica opens ninth innings at Yankee Stadium, Rivera does his maestro stuff on the mound, and then Frank Sinatra closes the show with "New York, New York," after Rivera's last pitch.

Metallica was at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, playing a live version of "Enter Sandman" as part of the Mariano Rivera Day festivities, and Rivera was masterful in his pitching work on the day he had his number retired, but it was not a typical set because Sinatra could not be heard until after the Yankees had made their final out, rather than after New York's opponents had made theirs.

MORE: Rivera's greatest feat | Metallica rocks the Bronx | Mo's gifts

In a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees stranded runners on second and third in the seventh inning, then had two runners thrown out at the plate in the eighth. So the sellout crowd of 49,197 and all the honored guests in the Bronx had to settle for merely watching a vintage Rivera performance without his usual closing act.

The Yankees' closer was called on to keep the game within reach after doubles by Pablo Sandoval and Tony Abreu gave the Giants the lead in the top of the eighth, and he was as dominant as ever. To get five outs, Rivera needed only 16 pitches -- and he would have needed even fewer if Robinson Cano had not made a throwing error to turn a sure double play into no outs in the ninth inning. Rivera would have pitched the 10th inning if there had been one, which was just as much a reminder of how good he has been, and what a different class he has been in than other closers, as the ceremony to honor him and retire his number before the game.

MORE SPECTOR: It's time for Yankees to start rebuilding

"It means a lot to me, especially the guys that were there to me," Rivera said. "Seeing Geno (Gene Monahan), our trainer for a long time, Mr. Torre and Tino and Posada and Bernie and O'Neill and all the guys. It was outstanding. I don't know what to say. I thank God for that."

The Yankees don't have Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, and Paul O'Neill in their lineup anymore. On Sunday, they had Mark Reynolds at first base, Chris Stewart and then J.R. Murphy catching, Curtis Granderson in center field, and Ichiro Suzuki in right field. Reynolds homered for the Yankees' only run, and Granderson and Suzuki are no slouches, but the Yankees who will be best remembered as Rivera's teammates were not wearing pinstripes. Rivera's presence in the bullpen still looms large over any game the Yankees play, but his team has to have the lead in order for him to protect it.

"I liked to try to get all the players in the All-Star Game, and I remember saying, 'Guys, let's score more runs,' because we had a one-run lead and I wanted to use everybody," Joe Torre said. "Somebody drags on my jacket from behind, and I turned around and it's Darin Erstad, who says, 'Who's pitching the ninth?' I said, 'Mariano Rivera,' and he said, 'You don't need any more runs.' That struck me, at that point in time, to give you an idea of the respect that he garnered throughout the game."

"I can't think of anybody who had more of an impact in the game just by the mere notion that he is available," said Bernie Williams. "Teams adjusted their lineups and were so unorthodox. Righthanders would hit, pinch-hitting against him (to try to neutralize the legendary cutter, which was more effective against lefthanders). He really made people get away from their comfort zone and do some crazy things because he was pitching. I can't think of anybody that had that much of an impact in the game being a non-position player."

Said Jorge Posada: "Teams would do anything to get to you in the seventh and eighth inning, because in the ninth, it was pretty much done."

On Mariano Rivera Day, that was what the Giants did. With nothing to save, Rivera could not get one, and just had to settle for being his usual brilliant self. It's still amazing to watch him work - "He mastered his craft as well as anyone I've ever seen," Joe Girardi said - but it's not the same without Sinatra playing him off.

Source: Sportingnews