Diva Joyce to drip-drip blogger: Music deserves better than cynicism

Joyce DiDonato, ever willing to engage, has written a lengthy diatribe to a curmudgeonly micro-blogger who took persistent issue with her human rights boycott of certain countries, but not of others. Instead of  the ‘lucid, erudite response’ she had in mind, Joyce simply lets rip as she does on stage.

First, by way of rebuke:

Perhaps it’s naive of me to think that this reply will be met with anything other than continued cynicism when you carry such headlines as “Let’s stop pretending classical music will change the world.” But I have beautiful news for you: it always has and it always will. Perhaps it hasn’t changed policy, but it absolutely changes the world for countless people – this is something which deserves much more than cynicism.

Then, by way of explanation:

As an artist and as a human being, I have always given myself permission to misstep, to fail, to succeed, to live, to learn. Rigidity has always struck me as a destructive trait, and one I have worked to avoid. There is much complexity in this world that makes very little sense to me, and staying open to growth has always seemed to me to be the best shot at evolving. Knowing this about myself is precisely why I recognized that my decision to decline the invitation to sing in Moscow was perhaps not the correct one. Or, perhaps it was? That is not for me to determine, and I will never know if it was the “right” decision. But it is what I felt compelled to do at that time, and so I acted.

A true artist.

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  • Brava! A true artist should never have to knee jerk to external pressure and to act according to what others expect from her/his.

  • My initial thought, in reading this headline, was that Joyce’s criticisms were directed towards Slipped Disc. I was mistaken, obviously, but it gave me a chuckle.

    Is “micro-blogger” an apt characterization for that blog, On An Overgrown Path? It seems more substantial than was is connoted by the term microblog.

  • The poster Sop at it again… Strange she did not denounce the treatment of the gay pride in Kiev…

  • The discussion in question is on the excellent blog, “An Overgrown Path,” written by Robert Singleton. He provides an interesting response to Ms. Donato. In the interest of fairness it should also be linked. It is here:

    http://www.overgrownpath.com/2015/06/classical-music-should-not-be-art-of.html

    Mr. Singleton addresses the problems of selective activism. This is a real problem in the music world. We can’t protest everything wrong in the world, but it seems like the more famous an American artist is, the more likely they are to be involved only in protest that our government supports, or protest that carries a kind of hip cache and fashionability. They favor protest that does not involve personal repercussions and that does not require them to stand alone.

    Sometimes protest that conforms to an easy consensus can even become a brutal type of mobbing and public shaming that is more destructive than the perpetrator’s offense. When people like Singleton try to address these problems, it is intellectually dishonest to say they are just being cynical.

    As an example of these problems, I wonder when Ms. Donato, or any other famous American opera singer, will raise a sustained protest against the USA ranking 39th in the world for opera performances per capita, a lower number than every country in Europe. When will any famous American opera singer protest that we only have 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year? When will any famous classical musician protest that America is the only developed country in the world without a comprehensive system of public arts funding? These social conditions causes enormous suffering to thousands of artists directly involved with Ms. Donato’s field, so where is her protest?

    We all know the answer. A famous classical musician who actively and consistently protests our lack of a public funding system in the USA could face serious career problems, so they ALL remain silent. As Mr. Singleton notes, this problem goes far beyond just Ms. Donato. Thank you for your thoughts about these problems, Mr. Singleton. Ironically, it is exactly the kind of protest that won’t make you popular…

    • Then the taxpayers can be stuck with concert halls that runs ten times over budget as in NL’s report on Hamburg.

  • In answer to Wm. Osborne’s penultimate paragraph’s queries I’d say, “don’t hold your breath.”

  • Kudos to Joyce, with a very full schedule, for taking the time to respond and with grace. That is a mark of who she is, for sure. The majority of famous singers protest publicly about nothing; Joyce has repeatedly spoken out, taken some risks in turning down Moscow, and been utterly consistent as far as I can see in her stand. Yes, someone needs to protest about lack of funding of the arts (in more countries than the US for that matter) so let someone else step up. One person cannot take on every single cause. In the meanwhile, as one who has been touched deeply by her singing, and influenced in my own stand on social issues by her own stand, I will continue to look up to her as a powerful voice in more ways than one.

    • When it comes to the low status of opera in the USA, and the suffering it causes so many people in the field, it would appear that every famous opera singer in America has said, “Let someone else step up.”

      The larger and more important point is that we too often avoid protest that isn’t easy, and that might have personal repercussions. Unfortunately, that is often the protest that is most needed.

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