Crowned Classica's artist of the year in 2012, "Yankee diva" Joyce DiDonato is the quintessential 21st century opera singer: glamorous, unaffected, a diva in body and spirit with a smooth, supple, flexible voice.
Joyce DiDonato grew up in a home full of music, where jazz, classical, sacred and other styles of music created what she calls a "joyful cacophony". Her Irish-born father conducted a church choir and her mother was an organist, so it was only natural for her to start singing at church and in her high school's musicals. The first voice she loved was that of Ella Fitzgerald, for its sheer flexibility. She saw her future in teaching choir singing and had no intention of becoming a soloist, let alone a future diva. After starting out as a chorus singer at the Santa Fe opera, she studied at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia with Christofer Macatsoris, a pupil of Tullio Serafin. Later she entered what is regarded as the best school for singers in North America, the Houston Grand Opera Studio young artist program. In her first lesson, she was told: "You're talented, you're smart, but you have no future". Undeterred, at the age of 26 she went back to square one with her technique and spent over two years singing scales. In her native USA, she debuted in secondary roles and laid the groundwork for her big break.
The years 1998-2000 were decisive for her career. Finally it was Europe that revealed her talent as a soloist and launched her into orbit. She came second in Operalia, the World Opera Competition founded by Plácido Domingo. At the competition, she met the English agent Simon Goldstone, who believed in her and in her future, and predicted that she would "become enormous". To help her get known, he scheduled 13 European auditions for her in 16 days. After 12 refusals, the last audition finally did the job! Her lucky break came in Paris. Hugues Gall opened the doors to the Opéra Bastille, where she triumphed in the role of Rosina in Rossini's Barber of Seville.
Her international career was launched. She is equally brilliant in the bel canto repertoire (Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini) as in Mozart, Handel and Berlioz. However she sees three composers - Handel, Mozart and Rossini - as the core foundation of her work and is constantly drawn back to them. She sings to full houses in all of the world's top venues, including the Met, Covent Garden and La Scala. With the Orchestre National de Radio France, Joyce DiDonato has sung and even recorded Berlioz (Benvenuto Cellini conducted by John Nelson and Béatrice et Bénédict conducted by Colin Davis).
She enjoys passing on her experience and valuable advice to young singers in masterclasses. At the same time, she constantly has her coach check her singing so that she remains at the top of her form.
Six landmark dates in the life of Joyce DiDonato:
1998: wins second prize in the Operalia competition in Hamburg
2002: the role of Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville at the Opéra Bastille launches her international career
2008: her best-selling album of Handel music, "Furore", is released
2009: on 5 February, sings the role of Béatrice in Béatrice et Bénédict by Berlioz at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées with the Orchestre National de Radio France conducted by Colin Davis
2013: triumphs in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at the Met in New York
2014: on 23 May 2014, received an Honorary Doctorate from the Juilliard School
Official website: http://joycedidonato.com/
Biography compiled from Radio France Musical Documentation (October 2014)