Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Dame Janet and Queen Joyce: life lessons from two majestic mezzos.

Insights: Dame Janet Baker and Joyce DiDonato in conversation
It was the solstice and I have evidence of ghosts. Inducted into a hyper-reality which transcended even Proust’s tisane-soaked madeleine, we can only imagine what Dame Janet Baker thought as she closed her eyes and listened to her younger self sing a little of Maria Stuarda. How did the recording relate to memory? Recorded music, wonderful as it may be, is a pale imitation of the real thing: that’s why so little space is give on these pages to such matters. It is the ersatz good. I know the goosebumps Barenboim’s Walküre at the Proms gives me, as an audience-goer, at a more modest remove. After decades. Of such intensity? The moment felt voyeuristic and intrusive; but it was compulsive too.
Why had Dame Janet and Queen Joyce been assembled thus? As part of a ROH insight event. The evening was actually much more Ode to a Grecian urn. Young singers were encouraged to be truthful to create beauty. Dame Janet spoke of the singer as a glass, through which all might pass, and the need to keep this glass clear. We also had a plea for hard work. Electronic media can help get attention. These may only be surface, but they can help. However there’s no substitute for hard work.
Overall: a deeply illuminating discussion and real privilege to be in the room with them. 

Clips of this remarkable discussion will be posted on Youtube soon.

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