One of the world’s most celebrated opera singers, American lyric-coloratura mezzo- soprano Joyce DiDonato returned to Covent Garden earlier this month for a one night only recital with the Royal Opera’s music director, Antonio Pappano.
For Opera-lite people, like myself, a ‘lyric-coloratura’ has a light, agile singing voice with a great range, that can reach a high upper extension capable of a fast vocal coloratura, which refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody. A ‘mezzo-soprano’ simply means ‘half soprano’, pitched between a soprano (high) and a contralto (low).
Described as a ‘gilt-edged opera star’, Joyce is notable for her interpretations of Handel, Mozart and Rossini, composers who included many roles for lyric-coloratura mezzo-sopranos in their operas. Winner of two Grammy Awards, she made her Royal Opera House debut in 2013 as Fox in Leos Janacek’s THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN and later that year performed in THE LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS at London’s Royal Albert Hall, that included leading the audience in the traditional patriotic piece, ‘Rule Britannia.’
Joyce signed my sketch at the Royal Opera House before the June 4 recital.
Hungarian-Canadian opera singer Krisztina Szabo made her Covent Garden debut last week in George Benjamin and Martin Crimp’s latest collaboration, LESSONS IN LOVE AND VIOLENCE at the Royal Opera House. The mezzo-soprano, who has performed extensively in both North America and Europe, appeared as the Angel and Maria in Opera Philadelphia and the Holland Festival’s productions of George and Martin’s previous worldwide hit WRITTEN ON SKIN. After its brief London season, LESSONS will embark on a European tour, including another debut for Krisztina at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam. Her style is described as “exemplifying today’s modern singer- vocally versatile, excellent stage prowess, painting vivid character portraits.” Krisztina signed my drawing at the Royal Opera House this week.
Itzhak Perlman is the epitome of the word legend. I know I use it often, and have been very fortunate to spend brief moments with a few who have kindly reciprocated by signing one of my scribbles. But Itzhak is undeniably the reigning virtuoso of the violin – the world’s greatest living exponent of the instrument. The 71 year-old Israeli-American
has won 15 Grammy and four Emmy Awards among countless other accolades.
When I found out he was doing a one-off appearance in London to conduct the Mozart Requiem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus at the Royal Festival Hall last Sunday I immediately put pencil to paper and did this montage sketch, which he signed and dedicated. It’s one of my prize possessions.
Russian mezzo-soprano Anna Goryachova made her Royal Opera debut earlier this year in the title role of Barrie Kosky’s ‘daringly dark’ new production of CARMEN. She shared the role with fellow debutant Gaelle Arquez. The 34 year-old native of St Petersburg began her opera career in her hometown’s Chamber Opera and has been a popular performer throughout Europe and Scandinavia since.
She had previously performed the role of CARMEN at Belgium’s Opera Vlaanderen and Teato Real in Madrid. In London the production broke with convention, resembling more the dazzle-dazzle of Vaudeville. Anna signed my drawing, which I left for her at the Royal Opera House stage door, with a vivid red crayon and returned it to me along with a very nice thank you note.
One of the world’s rising young opera stars, French mezzo-soprano Gaelle Arquez made her Convent Garden debut earlier this year, performing the title role in the Royal Opera’s production of Bizet’s CARMEN. It’s a role she knows well however, having played the famous gypsy previously this year in Frankfurt and Madrid. After graduating from the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris, Gaelle debuted as Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI for the Opera de Paris and has since played all the major opera houses around the world. Gaelle signed my drawing at the Royal Opera House after a performance of CARMEN last month.
“In Swedish soprano Malin Bystrom, we come as near to perfection as we ever will: a petulant, imperious teenager becoming drugged with lust,” wrote Michael Church in his five-star Independent review for the third revival of David McVicar’s gory and provocative production of Richard Strauss’s SALOME at the Royal Opera House. “Her voice rides easily over the hundred-piece orchestra and the porcelain purity of her tone contrasts ever more starkly with her blood-bolstered presence. Wonderful.”
After six appearances since her Covent Garden debut in 2002, Malin returned for the ROH’s 2017/1018 Autumn season, playing Helene in LES VEPRES SICILIENNES in November and the biblical femme fatale SALOME in January.
Malin signed my sketch for me after I left it at the stage door.
Canadian soprano star Adrianne Pieczonka returned to London’s Covent Garden last month to play the title role in the Royal Opera’s production of Puccini’s TOSCA. This is Adrienne’s fourth appearance for the company, having debuted as Donna Anna in
Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI in 2002. She also played Floria Tosca in the 2009 film version directed by Frank Zamacona based on the San Francisco Opera production.
Adrienne was in the first of three casts for this season’s Royal Opera staging, conducted by Dan Ettinger and Placido Domingo. Describing her own vocal range as “somewhere between a lyric and a dramatic soprano,” Adrienne is able to include a wide variety of roles in her repertoire and has become internationally celebrated for her interpretations of Wagner, Strauss, Verdi and Puccini.
The German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ wrote,” Frenetic ovations greeted Adrienne Pieczonka for her supreme performance… clear, powerful with contoured high notes and precise dramatic gestures… the star of the evening.”
I left this sketch of her at the stage door and she not only signed and returned it, but included a nice note: ‘Dear Mark – I am so impressed with your drawing! Fantastic!’… so I guess she liked it.
The ever popular Chinese classical pianist Yuja Wang returned to London just before Christmas to a packed, returns-only Wigmore Hall recital with violinist leoniadas Kavakos.
Starting at the age of six, Yuja rose to prominence and became an internationally recognised concert pianist by the age of 20. “For me, playing music is about transporting to another way of life, another way of being,” she said in an LA Times interview.
In 2017 she was named Musical America’s Artist of the Year. Apart from her musical skills and technique she is known for her ‘especially correct posture, elegant, nearly exemplary’ and her eye-catching attire and glamorous stage presence.
Yuja signed this drawing I left at Wigmore Hall, returning it this week.
The American classical cellist Alisa Weilerstein is one of the most popular performers on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing with all the foremost orchestras in the US and Europe. Among her many accolades is the 2011 MacArthur Fellowship or ‘genius grant’ which is awarded to American citizens or residents who show ‘extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.’
While described as ‘classical,’ Alisa has expanded her cello repertoire and is an ardent champion of new music. She is renowned for her performance energy, ‘natural virtuosity, intensity, spontaneity and sensitivity of interpretation’.
Alisa signed my drawing after her recital with pianist Inon Barnatan at London’s Wigmore Hall last November.
Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero returned to London over the festive season with a lunchtime recital at Wigmore Hall.
“Whether she’s hurling ferocious social-media rebukes at the government of her native Venezuela or contouring fiery interpretations on the ivories, Gabriela Montero is never dull. You don’t come out of her recitals thinking, as you do with many modern pianists, ‘Amazing technique. Where’s the charisma?’ She had second helpings when the plates of personality were handed out,” wrote the Time critic Richard Morrison in his review intro.
Apart from her classical repertoire, Gabriela is also known for her real-time improvisation of complex musical pieces based on themes suggested by her audience. She signed this sketch for me before her recital at Wigmore Hall.