The New York Times: Her Art, Her Passion, Her Torment: Joyce DiDonato Celebrates Camille Claudel at Zankel Hall

February 6, 2015

Joyce DiDonato at Zankel Hall with the Brentano String Quartet: from left, Serena Canin, Mark Steinberg, Nina Lee and Misha Amory. Credit: Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

The life of the French sculptor Camille Claudel is a tangle of art, passion, madness and betrayal. A student and lover of Rodin’s, Claudel was a critically acclaimed artist when she began to show signs of mental distress, which led her family to commit her to an institution, where she spent the remaining 30 years of her life.

On Thursday at Zankel Hall, the incandescent mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato presented the New York premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Camille Claudel: Into the Fire.” Set for voice and string quartet, the work compresses a tragic life of operatic dimensions into a song cycle of great beauty and emotional resonance.

Ms. DiDonato is one of this season’s artists in the Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall, tasked with assembling a group of concerts that reflect her own interests. At first glance, these seem eclectic: Thursday’s program, which featured the fiercely eloquent Brentano String Quartet, also included instrumental music by Charpentier and Debussy, as well as the world premiere of “Mother Songs,” a set of lullabies composed by amateurs, resulting from an outreach program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.

But at a closer glance, there was a narrative cohesion to the concert that revealed Ms. DiDonato’s intelligence as a storyteller. Debussy’s seething String Quartet provided a backdrop for Claudel’s personal drama, a Parisian arts scene humming with innovation yet anchored in the kind of classicism of which Charpentier’s “Concert Pour Quatre Parties de Violes” is an elegant example. The Brentano Quartet performed both with stylistic finesse; in the Debussy, the juxtaposition of blurry textures and bright explosions of sound vividly evoked Impressionist painting.

The titles of Mr. Heggie’s songs, with texts by Gene Scheer, are those of some of Claudel’s sculptures, allowing her work to remain in the foreground, even as the songs explore her personal turmoil. Ms. DiDonato gave a riveting performance that ranged from the unkempt eroticism of “Shakuntala” to the hollow despair with which she sang the final line, “Thank you for remembering me.”

The touching simplicity of “Mother Songs,” written in a gospel-tinged American vernacular, with spun-sugar arrangements by the composer Luna Pearl Woolf, may seem far removed from Claudel’s wild genius. But the authors, women who had teamed up with teaching artists from the Weill Music Institute during their pregnancies, drafted these lullabies facing their own struggles. Of the four women represented in Ms. DiDonato’s performance, one had been homeless during her pregnancy, two were teenagers, and one was incarcerated on Rikers Island.

Ms. DiDonato’s tender performance of their songs alongside her tribute to Claudel thus became a gesture of defiant compassion.

By: CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM

Read at: The New York Times 

The New York Times: A Crushed Spirit, Healed by the Whispers of Angels

October 17, 2013
"Angel Heart" was conceived by Luna Pearl Woolf and  Lisa Delan.

“Angel Heart” was conceived by Luna Pearl Woolf and Lisa Delan.

“There.”

“Do you hear it?”
At the beginning, there is only the voice of Jeremy Irons. Then, the sound of strings: high, sparkling filaments of sound that dance around the narrator’s voice like dust particles catching the light.

There is a whispering of wings in the silence of the night.

They’re coming. With feathers as white as snow and faces as bright as the moonlight:

Angels.

“Angel Heart” is a tender and emotionally astute children’s story told in words and music. Last month it was released as an audiobook CD; on Monday it will be performed live at Zankel Hall with the actor Chris Noth as narrator. Continue reading

Publishers Weekly: In Tune: Music Sparks a New Project from Cornelia Funke

September 24, 2013

What happens when a pair of music professionals set out to create a CD to share with their kids? In the case of composer Luna Pearl Woolf and soprano Lisa Delan, they enlist author Cornelia Funke, actor Jeremy Irons, and Mirada Studios to help them turn their vision into a multimedia storybook and interactive iPad app. The result is Angel Heart, a CD in mini-hardcover packaging being released September 24 by Oxingale Records. An app is set to follow in early 2014. Continue reading

The Republican: Cellist to ‘jazz’ it up for hungry

May 4, 2010

Cellist Matt Haimovitz has an innovative approach to music, and he is bringing his talent to Western Massachusetts to benefit two organizations that help the hungry.

Renowned internationally for his performances aimed at popularizing classical music, Haimovitz will perform with Continue reading

CityMusic Cleveland: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: Cellist Matt Haimovitz goes solo with CityMusic

February 8, 2010

Virtuoso cellist Matt Haimovitz has made a career of bringing classical music to people who don’t hear it much. In the mid-’90s, having played as soloist with major orchestras in venues like Carnegie Hall, the Israeli-born, American-raised musician got frustrated with the narrowness of classical-music culture and the kind of career typically Continue reading