Drawing: Joyce DiDonato

Autographed drawing of opera singer Joyce DiDonato

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.

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Drawing: Krisztina Szabo

Autographed drawing of opera singer Krisztina Szabo

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.

Drawing: Anna Goryachova in Carmen

Autographed drawing of opera singer Anna Goryachova in Carmen

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.

Drawing: Gaelle Arquez in Carmen

Autographed drawing of opera singer Gaelle ArquezOne 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.

Drawing: Malin Bystrom in Salome

Autographed drawing of Malin Bystrom in Salome at the Royal Opera House in London

“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.

Drawing: Adrianne Pieczonka in Tosca

Autographed drawing of soprano Adrianne Pieczonka in Tosca at the Royal Opera House, London

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.

Drawing: Christiane Karg

Award-winning German operatic soprano Christiane Karg performed at London’s Wigmore Hall last weekend where I managed to get this sketch signed. The drawing is based on her role as Norina in DON PASQUALE at the Komische Opera in Berlin at the beginning of 2010.

Drawing: Teodor Ilincai in Madama Butterfly

Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai made his international debut as MacDuff in Verdi’s MACBETH at the Hamburg State Opera in January 2009 and later that year first appeared at the Royal Opera House, playing Rodolfo in LA BOHEME. He returned to Covent Garden last month as Lieutenant Pinkerton opposite Ana Maria Martinez in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, where he signed my drawing.

Drawing: Marcelo Puente in Madama Butterfly

Argentina tenor Marcelo Puente is so good at being bad, he gets booed at the curtain call. Making his Covent Garden debut as Pinkerton, one of Opera’s great villains in the latest revival of Puccini’s MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House, the 38 year old has fulfilled a fourteen-year dream to perform at the iconic venue. Taking a break from his opera scholarship in Düsseldorf in the summer of 2003 he came to London and took a job as a waiter in an Italian restaurant near the ROH. They found out he was a singer so he performed between waiting tables and everyday passed the Opera House dreaming one day he would be on the famous stage. He actually gave up medical school and changed his career direction after hearing a recording of Pavarotti.

The reviews have been excellent. Tim Ashley, in the Guardian also mentioned opera audiences habit of booing reprehensible on stage characters and commented, when Marcelo takes his curtain call they greet him with “the kind of noise usually accorded a pantomime villain, despite giving one of the most complete and convincing portrayals of the role to be heard for some time.” He went on to say that, “Some might argue that the response validates his characterisation, though whether it’s a fitting acknowledgement for such a superb achievement seems to me debatable.”

Drawing: Ermonela Jaho in Madama Butterfly

Albanian-Italian soprano Ermonela Jaho is the toast of the opera world this week after her opening performance in the title role of Puccini’s tragedy MADAMA BUTTERFLY at the Royal Opera House.

Critics from all the mainstream papers in the UK and beyond have cemented the 43 year-old’s star status. “The best Cio-Cio-San London has seen in years,” wrote Michael Church in the Independent. The Guardian’s Tim Ashley headlined his five-star review of the Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier production with “The whole evening is outstanding.” He went on to write,”Ermonela Jaho, one of the great verismo interpreters, brings uncompromising veracity to the title role.”

I left this drawing at the stage door and it came back signed along with a dedicated photograph.