It is easy to see why mezzo soprano Joyce Didonato has such a following on social media and otherwise. For one night only, she took the stage to share what she has learned from music and more as Celebrity Series presented Songplay on Friday, March 1 at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall at 8 p.m. Click here for more information and here for where Joyce Didonato will appear next.
Celebrity Series has a knack for welcoming artists that not only show off their talent, but teach the audience a thing or two about their craft, leaving the audience some material to ponder. With a lively, charming presence and a versatile voice that defies a definitive genre, mezzo-soprano Joyce Didonato shattered a few traditions and came up with a refreshing repertoire that combined opera, jazz, baroque, and other genres making a few classic songs new again.
Emerging from backstage in a shimmering emerald evening gown, this dynamic singer was greeted by a full house. This particular show seemed to be tailor-made for professionally-trained singers as Joyce shared details of her extensive vocal training, recalling in jest and self deprecation the tools that helped her become the professional singer she is. She also shared some personal reflections and comical stories between songs about her life and music.
With soaring, soothing vocals and an impeccable range, Joyce’s voice is as sophisticated with an aria as it is playful with jazz and Broadway numbers. Fans of opera and jazz would especially enjoy the show, but Joyce and her band offered enough variety and humor with each transformed song that most music fans could appreciate it as well.
Throughout the evening, she introduced her acclaimed band one by one with anecdotes and playful music interludes. Each band member had their individual chance to shine. Behind a large Steinway and Sons grand piano sat pianist and arranger Craig Terry with whom she shared more than a few lighthearted moments with. They kicked off the evening with the Italian aria, Caro mio ben and later Craig performed a captivating rendition of Dizzy Fingers.
Hailing from Buenos Aires, Lautaro Greco introduced the bandoneon, a unique instrument which is played like a piano, shaped like an accordion, but sounds like a horn. He joined her lively band that included revered double bassist Chuck Isreals, acclaimed percussionist Jimmy Madison, and legendary trumpet player Charlie Porter. The band’s random, surprising music notes added a few humorous and cheeky moments to the performance, the horn chasing her soaring vocals during a jazz-infused interlude. All in good fun.
A few of the evening’s highlights included a heartfelt, angst-ridden rendition of Will He Like Me? from the Broadway show, She Loves Me, a tender, reflective rendition of Gene Scheer’s Lean Away dedicated to Andre Previn, Duke Ellington’s classic Solitude, and a song Joyce always dreamed of singing, Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose.
At one point during the show, Joyce referred to playing traditional music just one way as an emotional straight jacket. Watching her put a creative spin on these classics with humor, grace, and gusto was a liberating experience.
Celebrity Series of Boston offers a dynamic roster featuring the annual Stave Sessions, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Shawn Colvin, and much more. Click here for more information and for tickets. Tickets can also be obtained at the Celebrity Series of Boston’s box office. Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.