Diva takes a dive: Joyce falls after singing national anthem

Diva takes a dive: Joyce falls after singing national anthem


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2014

All in blue and bare of accompaniment, the mezzo from Kansas City gave her all in Game 7 of the World Series.

But no sooner had she finished singing than she hit the dirt. Here’s AP:


joyce didonato falls

(Photo (c) Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (AP) — Oops, another national anthem stumble at the World Series.

Opera star Joyce DiDonato did just fine singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before Game 7 Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Then, as the longtime Royals fan from Kansas was walking off the field, she tripped in the batter’s box and managed to catch herself. But after regaining her balance, the Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano took another step or two and fell to the dirt, as dramatically as she might on the stages of the world’s greatest opera houses.

The 45-year-old DiDonato laughed at her misstep and the Kansas City crowd cheered her effort.

Was she fazed? Heck, no. This is a gal from Kansas who once sang half a Covent Garden opera with a broken leg.


joyce on her knees


  • cabbagejuice says:

    The singing was more embarrassing.

  • Herrera says:

    Another reason baseball players don’t wear high-heel calf-length boots on the field.

  • Herrera says:

    Alright, how many bad musical puns can we squeeze out of this?

    1. Diva falls flat.
    2. Singer not so sharp after performance.
    3. DiDonato calando at end of Star-Spangled Banner.
    4. Alto not so alto.

  • CDH says:

    Nobody will give a toss or remember this. The Giants won.

  • GEll says:

    Serves her well for being the non-stop clown she is. Not that anyone deserves a fall. Maybe there is a lesson in the embarrassment that Renée and now JDD put themselves through. Neither performance translated or will translate to higher record or box office sales. Just sayin’.

    • cabbagejuice says:

      Funny thing, the ardent supporters, making excuses for this and that, are the same ones who go gaga when screechy tenors or sopranos bleat out high notes on the Got Talent shows. Someone told them this is “opera” and “culture”.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you were competent enough to listen to her actual operatic repetoire before judging her and her fans, you wouldn’t be making this comment. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    She wanted PR? She got it!

  • Peter Freeman says:

    My oh my, what a wobble! Did you not hear it? Like voice like feet!

    • Anonymous says:

      Listen to her operatic stuff and you’ll find it’s nothing near wobbly. I could tell she was off yesterday because of nerves.

    • MWnyc says:

      She was pretty spectacular as Alcina at Carnegie Hall last Sunday, and not wobbly, either.

      • cabbagejuice says:

        You might check out Alcina done by Sutherland, generally regarded as the Queen of Handel.

        • Richard Cumming-Bruce says:

          That’s a fair enough comment about Alcina – but placing the bar pretty high. After all, Alcina was the role that earned Sutherland the nickname “La Stupenda”; and I’m not alone in thinking that, in the repertory that she sang, Sutherland set a standard that has never been bettered, and generations to come are likely to struggle to equal. Likewise Callas – the early Callas at least – is a seminal figure in the history of opera, and in several of her roles she remains for many people THE definitive exponent. I’m not sure that I would immediately think of Cenerentola as one of those roles (Frederica Von Stade comes to my mind as a very great exponent) but I hardly think it’s a great criticism to say that anyone fails to match Callas, nor for that matter Mariella Devia (and, even more to the point, Janet Baker) as Maria Stuarda.

          I can only say that I was DEEPLY moved by Joyce’s Maria Stuarda this summer, and unexpectedly riveted by Alcina last month; and that I am riled by the tone of some of the posts here. I am not convinced that making unflattering comparisons with some of the very finest singers of all time from previous eras, while perhaps a fair judgment, is a particularly constructive exercise either.

          To me, Joyce’s passion, commitment and talent is one of the greatest and most rewarding joys of the current opera scene. I’ve never seen a better Rosina in Barber of Seville than hers, nor anyone to approach her Elena in Donna del Lago. In that context one performance of the National Anthem in a highly charged atmosphere in a huge stadium is really neither here or there.


  • Richard Cumming-Bruce says:

    Some of us think the world would be a lot better place if it had more “non-stop clowns” like Joyce, and fewer “glass half-empty merchants” such as there seem to be on this page today.

    I agree that opera singers singing such anthems through microphones a “cappella” in a huge open-air stadium is hardly the best way to show their talents. But she obviously really wanted to do it, not for the PR so much as for emotional resonance of the moment, as did several thousand of get friends and fans; and in any case it actually doesn’t really matter very much how she sang it.

  • Milka says:

    Isn’t it sad that some cabbage head notes it doesn’t matter how one sings the national anthem .No matter its origin it is the “national anthem ” and
    as such deserves respect . It has been
    yowled by pop singers and so called
    opera stars without any consideration for the music . One would like to think that
    the DiDonato fall was a well deserved kick to the DiDonato rear end by the ghost of JS Smith the composer of the music,the kick as a comment on her dismal singing of the anthem .Seeing
    her on all fours was poetic justice
    and one can hope the ghost of Mr. Smith took some consolation at her
    embarrassment .DiDonato brings to mind
    the famous Anna Russell observation
    ” most singers have resonance where their brains ought to be “

  • Christy says:

    So many negative-nellies.

    Great job, Ms. Joyce! Thank you for representing opera so well. Don’t be discouraged by the people who have posted here. Opera needs more people like you!

  • Christy says:

    That video is not available in the U.S.

  • wwender says:

    I am disappointed, but not at all surprised, that Norman chose to take this angle. Not about how there seemed to be a popular effort to get her to sing the anthem, not about how nice it is that a classical musician gets this different sort of exposure. No, let’s just make fun of her for tripping and falling.

    I am also disappointed, but not surprised, that so many commenters are talking about how “embarrassing” her performance was, or how any classical musician who even attempts to seek “crossover” success or fame deserves whatever ill befalls her. (Or proves herself to be a talentless hack to begin with.)

    “Oh, you poor fools! Someone has told you that THIS is good music! I feel so bad for you! You’ve never heard Caballe sing Maria Stuarda!”

    One should be forgiven for assuming that all admirers of classical music are like this.

    • cabbagejuice says:

      I have a real problem with the way this anthem was approached. Anyone can have a bad hair day in voice or walking across a field but I didn’t see any real preparation as though we all know the SSB from grade school, so why bother? Any singer maps out the breathing like a pianist works on fingering so there are no breaks in the line say, after a preposition. If someone can take so much trouble in Italian, why not in English? I don’t see how a final extended Ab fit into the rest of the phrase musically except to broadcast to the world, “this is the operatic version” when it isn’t. This is such a cheap trick that one would expect mainly from the Got Talent crowd, playing to the peanut galleries. I’m sorry if my tone bothers some, but I was really put off by this treatment of the SSB that I do take seriously. I actually liked God Bless America sung by the servicewoman the day before. Though in a more jazzy style, it sounded sincere.

    • Christy says:

      Classical music fans have only themselves to blame for their labeling as “snobs” and “elitists.” These negative and ignorant comments are what is embarrassing and very, very sad for classical music. How can it truly survive if it’s greatest lights are destroyed from within? I wonder if those making these negative comments would rather classical music died than have a more broad appeal.

      How about a blog on this, Norman? The harm being done to classical music by its own fans who seem to wish it dead.

      • JAMA11 says:

        Norman, alas, is one of the chief offenders. More than a few of my friends in this industry refer to him as “poisonous” for exactly this reason. Ah well.

    • Sarah says:

      Ms. Didonato was in the midst of a busy month in NYC. Her fans started a social media campaign to have her sing the National Anthem in her hometown of Kansas City. She had very little actual notice; she was first asked to sing at the 6th game but had a prior commitment. No one knew until the night before whether there would be a 7th. So she flies to KC the morning of the game to get her bearings and rehearse a bit. How many other singers would attempt this – or, heck, even be asked to do so?

      • Christy says:

        There are no excuses or explanations necessary. Joyce did a great job.

        The responses here are typical whenever an opera singer does anything outside an opera house. It is sad and deleterious to opera itself.

        I do wish someone wit influence would write something discussing why opera fans tear down their own, but only if they have huge success, while other music fans work hard to promote their own so that they can expand their success.

  • Christy says:

    -With- of course. My apologies.

  • Milka says:

    Christy should get the sheet music
    to the anthem . Look carefully at the
    word “free” and carefully at the note.
    she does what every air head pop singer does on that note to please
    the peanut crowd .DiDonato sang passably but could not resist that top
    note to show she was a singer of sorts.It’s the national anthem not an
    operatic aria .

    • William Safford says:

      Actually, she interpolated a note, just as so many opera singers do in opera houses across the world.

      (It’s not to my taste either. Then again, I wasn’t the one on the field singing either….)

    • cabbagejuice says:

      Strangely enough, a relative newcomer, Jackie Evancho, sang the same anthem last year with a floated high note at the end that did not sound out of place at all. There is a musical reason for this.
      There are times when such a note comes as a musical and emotional culmination of an aria like Un Bel Di or Nessun Dorma. Other times where singers interpolate high notes from the music score like a tenor who can’t resist going along with the orchestra in the 1st act of Boheme: “la speranza” and matching the soprano’s C over the staff, it can sound awful just like a soprano singing the dominant high note in Butterfly at her entrance and at the end of the act that doesn’t resolve. Puccini knew better in such cases, didn’t write them as options and should have placed in an interdiction not to get such ideas.
      Musically, in this instance, going to the tonic note from the dominant note before the song closes and making such a big production out of it, is really out of place and distorts the harmonic feel. The fact that it also had a forced, strident quality made matters even worse.
      A light extension to the original note on “free” which Jackie did out of good instinct or the fact she can’t yet sing pitches above the staff in full voice was a more audibly and musically acceptable solution.

    • Christy says:

      I don’t need the sheet music. I know the note is interpolated. Your attitude is bad for opera. We need look no further than you and others who are making rude comments about Joyce and other singers to understand why young people think opera fans are elitist snobs.

      You are not better than Joyce or any of the singers you criticise, nor smarter.

      Full stop.

      • cabbagejuice says:

        Wow, 6 emotional posts out of 33! What are you getting all excited about, defending opera from the elitist opera snobs?
        First of all, this SSB was not opera nor in an opera style and nothing is going to make it such even if sung by an opera singer. It’s better not to oper-ize it. Good singers can switch from one style to another. The in-between fairly makes my skin crawl.
        What you seem to be talking about is popera – Brightman, Jenkins, Shapplin, Divo, etc. – melodrama crowned by a sustained high note at the end of an aria, whereupon everyone gasps!

        • Christy says:

          You don’t see what your negative comments read like and sound like to those who don’t know anything about classical music but might be interested. You and several others sound bitter and hostile. This is not an uncommon response to any opera singer who does anything that gets attention in pop culture. How dare they, right?

          These types of comments discourage other opera singers from reaching over boundaries, and they extend the stereotype of opera fans as elitist snobs. If I don’t know her but liked the anthem by Ms. DiDonato, and went to the video to watch it or found this story about it, I would read such negativity and arrogance from opera fans. I would run the other direction.

          Step out of yourself for one second to think what your comments read like to non-opera fans who may be exploring what this artform is like. There is a very good reason opera fans are called snobs. If that doesn’t change, the number of classical music fans will continue to shrink. Climb out of your tiny, appropriate box for one moment to consider that.

          • cabbagejuice says:

            No, Christy, your comments are bitter and hostile. For example:
            You are not better than Joyce or any of the singers you criticise, nor smarter.
            – See more at: https://slippedisc.com/2014/10/diva-takes-a-dive-joyce-falls-after-singing-national-anthem/?replytocom=46056#respond
            These negative and ignorant comments are what is embarrassing and very, very sad for classical music – See more at: https://slippedisc.com/2014/10/diva-takes-a-dive-joyce-falls-after-singing-national-anthem/?replytocom=46056#respond
            Sorry, your ignorance is shouting to the rafters. I don’t happen to believe that this performance (with all the excuses one can make for it) was representative AT ALL of classical music. I find it hard to believe that anyone after hearing this poor example will start listening to opera. It was not beautiful and by extension, not good. It might have been better if properly thought about and prepared which is what one would expect from such a hyped up multi-million dollar business. I don’t begrudge them the publicity but if the product is defective, anyone has a right to say so. The fact that it is eliciting such emotion even across the pond, shows how much the PR has its fingers on the buttons of public opinion and deftly manipulating them. Again, it is the popera effect we are still talking about, an emoting individual (in recent cases, a kid) who gives the impression but not the substance of opera. She is not the first bonafide opera singer to indulge in playing to the peanut gallery.

          • Christy says:

            My gosh. Perhaps you should get out more.

  • Milka says:

    There is an interesting observation in the Stendhal “Life of Rossini”about
    sopranos etc . interpolating notes
    into arias etc .So goes the Stendhal story – Rossini attends a performance
    where the star of the day is singing
    one of his works interpolating notes
    that show her abilities to advantage
    Rossini is more than annoyed by this
    but after the performance greets her
    with ” You were wonderful,
    marvelous, I even recognized some
    notes that I wrote”. Stendhal notes she missed the sarcasm .

    • cabbagejuice says:

      Depends on the interpolation, if it is melodically and harmonically justifiable, then why not? From the Classical era, instrumentalists and singers have been squeezed into the corner of “cadenza”, the only time they get to improvise, yet as a rule observe already written down notes.
      The Eb above the staff at the end of first act of Traviata was not written by Verdi. But as it is the dominant, it happily resolves downwards to Ab. Some purists don’t like it, but it does contribute, not detract, and moveover, one can say in this instance: “if you have it, flaunt it!

  • Milka says:

    Isn’t it interesting how in the world of music it is fair game for some air heads to distort the composers’ intention .
    Does Cabbagejuice imagine Verdi
    was so musically incompetent that he needed some air head soprano interpolating a top note
    to show off her virtuosity at the expense of the drama as Verdi perceived it .I am sure the likes
    of Christy and Cabbagehead would be yowling to the heavens if any comments they posted here were
    to be altered by so much as one word
    but the poor composer is fair game .
    A composers’ notes are like a writers’
    words, they mean something in the
    context of use , if Verdi did not want the Eb he had a reason and it wasn’t
    to please the peanut gallery ,it was to serve the drama as he heard it .
    It isn’ t being a “purist ” it is respect
    for the creative work of others .

    • cabbagejuice says:

      The most probable reason that Verdi did not crown the “Sempre Libera” with a high Eb was the soprano he was working with at the time. As it comes at the end of an act and not in the middle, it is more than justifiable. Do I dare say, he would have approved? Other composers like Rossini and Mozart wrote for the ranges and capabilities of the singers they had. This is not unusual.

  • Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix says:

    A clip from the commitment that prevented Joyce from singing the anthem at Game 6 shows Joyce “practicing” the anthem with the group of JHS students she had promised to coach on that day. They all sing the anthem with the accretions interpolated by decades of pop singers, for whom such interpolations are stock-in-trade. These are the ritardando with gruppetto (= flourish) on the word “wave” and the tonic *in alt* (in the present case, an Ab) on the word “free”. Of course these elements began with pop singers seeking to “personalize” their renditions. (Pun with “renderings” intended.) Also to be noted is that the fans SING ALONG; as a rule, including these accretions as a matter of course. Note, BTW, that Renee F. made the very same interpolations when she sang the SSB (accompanied by instrumentalists and a military escort), NOT (a cappella*, at the Super Bowl, not too long before Game 7. I had hoped to hear Joyce provide a model of retro interpretation, going back to the way Smith wrote it, but in the end I realized she could not, because the *a cappella* audience would have been flummoxed. The main things are: she got the gig by popular demand, she had minimum prep with the unfamiliar microphone as to handling the production of sound and the concomitant reverbration in the stadium, she acquitted herself creditably given the constraints I just outlined, she brought sunshine to the proceedings, and she fulfilled a childhood dream. Buy the Alcina album when it hits the bricks, and quitcherbitchin’.