Joyce to the World: DiDonato rolls out her very big plan

Joyce to the World: DiDonato rolls out her very big plan


norman lebrecht

December 07, 2021

The American mezzo has spent her Covid time creatively.

This afternoon, she is putting out a four-year plan, original and challenging.

Here’s the gist of it:

EDEN is DiDonato’s latest multi-faceted initiative, one that she will dedicate much of her time over the next four years to, uniting music, drama, and education to confront questions of our individual connection to Nature. Comprised of a tour of over 45 venues across five continents between 2022-24, an Erato album, ground-breaking education programme, and multiple partnerships, EDEN’s long-term impact and legacy will be far reaching.

DiDonato’s passionate belief, and the driving force behind EDEN, is that a collective return to our “best selves” is needed to not only address our current climate crisis, but the crisis of heart, as well. By examining our relationship to the natural world and our unique place within it, EDEN invites the listener to explore and search for answers about belonging, purpose, and healing.

“With each passing day,” writes DiDonato, “I trust more and more in the perfect balance, astonishing mystery and guiding force of the natural world around us, how much Mother Nature has to teach us. EDEN is an invitation to return to our roots and to explore whether or not we are connecting as profoundly as we can to the pure essence of our being, to create a new EDEN from within and plant seeds of hope for the future.”

Alongside her long-standing orchestral partners, Il Pomo d’Oro and conductor Maxim Emelyanychev DiDonato will collaborate with stage director Marie Lambert and Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman, combining music from different genres with a stage setting designed to connect the audience with the very heart of the natural world around us.

DiDonato describes how, in challenging times, contact with the natural world in conjunction with her musical life makes her “feel connected and sense that I’m an integral part of something bigger. A seed is awakened within me. This is precisely when I seek out the comfort and connection of music: with each passing day I trust more and more in the perfect balance, astonishing mystery, and guiding force of the musical world. Both nature and music are showing us the way – a way dictated by harmony and balance. Will we answer the call?”

The Erato album EDEN is released on February 25th, 2022 and the international tour begins on March 2, 2022 in Brussels. The repertoire for both is richly diverse, pulling from the timeless theme of nature which has captivated composers over the centuries with each track exploring an aspect of humankind’s relationship with nature and will, in DiDonato’s words, “have no boundaries – like a wild garden.”

Ranging from the 17th to the 21st century, and embracing such composers as Handel, Gluck, Wagner, Mahler, Ives, Copland and Oscar-winner Rachel Portman – who DiDonato has commissioned to write a new work specially for EDEN – the programme is at the heart of this visionary project.

Crossing a number of musical genres, EDEN opens with two pieces that pose questions: dating from 1908, Charles Ives’s enigmatic The Unanswered Question, in which DiDonato sings lines usually assigned to a trumpet, and a new commission from the Academy Award winning British composer Rachel Portman. For EDEN, Portman has teamed up with American poet and writer Gene Scheer to compose The First Morning of the World. Scheer, admired for his collaborations with such prominent composers as Jake Heggie (including the song cycle Camille Claudel: Into the fire, written for DiDonato and released on Erato in 2018) acknowledges, through its evocative text, that this is a moment rife with questions, wondering about “the sounds and the songs from the first morning of the world.”

An oratorio aria by Josef Mysliveček is taken from a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, as the Angel of Justice utters a stern and bitter warning to his people. From the earlier part of the 18th century Handel is represented by his famous “Largo”, a breathtaking ode to the refreshing shade of a plane tree. The early glories of Italian opera are evoked in an aria from Cavalli’s opera of gods and humans, La Calisto. Its story opens on a scorched, arid landscape, but it ends with Calisto, its heroine, ascending to the stars.

Integral to EDEN is a new and industry-defining model that will set a new standard for the local impact artists can have in amplifying the power of their performances. By engaging with multiple international partners, EDEN ensures that its education and community work is central to the project, and that its legacy is real and long-lasting.

As International Teaching Artists Collaborative (ITAC)’s Climate Ambassador, DiDonato has been working with them on the design and delivery of EDEN Engagement—an interdisciplinary music-nature education and community programme for children’s choirs and school groups across the globe, under the guidance of Eric Booth, Co-Founder of ITAC. The vision is to employ local Teaching Artists in every city on the tour, and work with them to amplify young peoples’ and others’ experiences of EDEN, using their voices and creative projects to gain a deeper understanding of nature and their direct impact within the world. Local children’s choirs will also get the opportunity to perform on stage with DiDonato in the EDEN concerts.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International and DiDonato have created The EDEN Sustainability Challenge that poses simple goals which demonstrably bring a more sustainable lifestyle. BGCI are providing native seeds for audience members to plant, bringing a rare and singular opportunity for the classical music community to literally and collectively plant a new “EDEN” across the globe, actively participating in regeneration, awareness and creation.


  • A.L. says:

    WTF. Is she now, too, philosopher, yogi, environmentalist and heart surgeon? Renée Fleming is doing pretty much the same thing but as brain surgeon instead. These two are so plastic it defies definition. But truly, if they cared so deeply about the environment they’d stop flying to promote themselves and their designer gowns. Enough.

    • tristan says:

      those two are not only phenomenal singers but great personalities
      that’s all but you don’t seem to get it

      • Maria says:

        Maybe but now at the end of their careers, they can’t let go, and have to turn into environmentalists or something to save the planet and themselves. Must be an American thing. You wouldn’t have seem Dame Janet Baker or Sir Thomas Allen doing such a thing in Britain, and also have fine upright personalities too. Out of both of them, Joyce is the one whose singing I’ve always admired, and a very fine teacher. Stop growing grass, and sew the seeds into the thousands of children who can’t afford lessons. Yes, and stop flying around the world in designer frocks!

        • V.Lind says:

          You sound like those people who think actors forfeit the right to speak out politically just because they are actors. Neither they, nor anyone else in the performing arts, gives up their interests or intellects or human citizenship just because they make their livings on a stage or on screen rather than in an office or a classroom or a shop or a factory.

          This scheme, very closely thought-out (if rather breathlessly described) shows that Ms. Di Donato has been working on how to make her contribution for some time. She clearly anticipates less call on her as a performer, and wants to redirect her formidable energies into something she cares about, using the world she knows best to reach out. The very fact that it is a four-year plan would seem to allow enough time to develop and assess the scheme, which, if succeeding, would have built its own momentum and, if not, would have had a fair chance and the opportunity to see how it could be improved.

          Or, she could just give master classes to Chinese-American students.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    This reads like something straight out of the Communist Manifesto. Not surprising, though, really.

  • Sandra says:

    I admire her and she has been very emotional in her performances so I believe her sentiment is very sincere. This text doesn’t do her any favors. It makes you roll your eyes and think “oh come on”. But I’m sure she will pour a lot of heart and energy into this project and make some amazing music in the end.

    • Maria says:

      Every fine singer who walked this planet is emotional in their performances but they know how to contain it. Yes, ‘Oh, come on’ says it all. In England we would probably say ‘Total bx!’ and be a bit more subtle about it all.

  • Anonymouns says:

    I admired her as a signer, and she used to be very down-to-earth. This press release really doesn’t do her much credit. It reads like Meghan Markle’s pronouncements, which is not a compliment—awakening seeds, “comprised of”, “best selves”, “who DiDonato has commissioned”, “rife with question”, trusting in the perfect balance, etc.

    • Maria says:

      Exactly, and sadly dare I say another American pronouncement – that you can be what you want to be, the American dream. Does her no favours is right. Why do they do it? It all seems to be about her than what she is trying to achieve.

  • A new “Eden”. Are you kidding. This sounds like infantile Group Think. How refreshing it would be if classical artists focused on classical music- and kept such delusions private.

  • gimel says:

    Remember Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project?

    It brought down the Soviet Union, got the Taliban out of Central Asia, allowed Muslims and ethnic minorities in China to flourish freely, ended the nuclear program in Iran, and of course, it let a thousand flowers bloom along the silk road.

    On another note, I thought the photo of Joyce DiDonato was her making her Broadway debut in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

  • John Borstlap says:

    “Integral to EDEN is a new and industry-defining model that will set a new standard for the local impact artists can have in amplifying the power of their performances.”

    This reads suspiciously as a politization of classical music, to compensate for the marginal presence of the art form in modern society – i.e. instrumentalization again for social engineering, like the woke attempts.

    The whole thing looks like a spoof, or a desperate attempt to make some money and milk the current Nature trope.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    “Local children’s choirs” involved, aka (parents’) bums on seats.

  • Larry W says:

    (11-07-19) Last evening, mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato presented “In War & Peace – Harmony Through Music” at Cullen Theater. She was joined by the baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, led by Maxim Emelyanychev. The program primarily featured works by Henry Purcell and George Frederic Handel, along with a topless male dancer.

    The spectacular Il Pomo d’Oro gave unusually dynamic, expressive, and energetic support. From the very first notes, it was clear this was no ordinary baroque ensemble, such as those typically producing rather dull sounds with questionable intonation. Under the animated direction of conductor and harpsichordist Emelyanychev, the musicians produced nuanced dynamics and articulations that did not simply conform to conventional rehearsal-time limited fare. Cornetto, flute, and violin solos were exceptionally beautiful.

    This program has been performed 42 times in 22 countries by musicians from 10 different countries. We are most fortunate to have it performed here in Houston, where Joyce joined the Houston Grand Opera Studio in 1996. In 1998, she appeared in HGO’s Resurrection by Tod Machover and Mark Adamo’s Little Women in 1999. I recall not only how special her voice was but how modest she was about her gift.

    If anyone can deliver a message of love and peace, it is Joyce DiDonato– a beautiful and sincere human being with a gorgeous voice. Whether singing or speaking, as she did at the program’s conclusion, there is never any doubt as to her sincerity and genuineness. Only a stone would not be moved by her expressiveness. The audience was unified in loving her, with that common bond providing the springboard for loving one another. A card in the printed program asks “In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace?” One way, Joyce, is to hear your message. –LW

  • JC says:

    I am personally looking forward to hearing from the Joyce DiDonato EDEN project.

    Ms. DiDonato is one of our greatest living artist and we should be thankful that we are able to experience her talent. We need more artist like her to spread the joy and beauty of Classical music to people who are not fortunate as ourselves.

    Judging by the disparaging comments on this website, the Classical music community has a serious problem with lack of empathy by over privileged individuals. This is not the way to spread the joy of Classical music to the poor and underserved community.

    I wish Ms. DiDonato the best of luck on her ambitious new project. I hope it will bring some new people into the world of the most beautiful music in the world.

  • John Borstlap says:

    A woman going to conquer the word! I love it! We are winning, in the end, and all simply by a loving embrace!