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Kansas opera star Joyce DiDonato gets Grammy nomination for album planting ‘seeds of hope’

Sergi Jasanada
Joyce DiDonato's recording "Eden" was nominated in November for a 2023 Grammy for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.

The mezzo-soprano, who grew up in Prairie Village, has been nominated for 11 Grammys and won three times — so far.

Joyce DiDonato was nominated for a Grammy Award for her album "Eden" in November. The Prairie Village, Kansas, native shares the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album nomination with her orchestral partners, Il Pomo d’Oro and conductor Maxim Emelyanychev.

The Recording Academy announced the 65th Grammy Award nominations during a Livestream event on their website and across social media. Winners will be announced on Feb. 5, 2023.

DiDonato’s music has explored issues from prison reform to war and peace to the importance of music education. With “Eden,” the focus is on climate change.

“I think we need a huge infusion of hope. We need to feel that we're working towards something and that we can get there,” DiDonato says. “And for me, turning to that, it's a real source of comfort.”

The recording was released in February. The concert program, a combination of music, movement, and theater, launched in March on an international tour of 45 venues, beginning in Brussels. The Harriman-Jewell Series presented the U.S. premiere at the Folly Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, in April.

Joyce DiDonato in Classical KC's studio.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was a Classical KC guest in April, and discussed the "Eden" multimedia performance, presented by the Harriman-Jewell Series.

DiDonato says her connection to nature dates back to summer road trips with her family to Colorado.

“I can still close my eyes and see the Milky Way under the Rocky Mountain sky, and I can still smell the crisp, fresh air,” she says. “And of course, the vision of the mountains, that's always made such a huge impact.”

DiDonato was a91.9Classical KC guest in April and discussed the "Eden" multimedia performances.

“Through the last years … I've sought out more time in nature, and I live much more closely to nature now,” DiDonato told Classical KC’s Brooke Knoll at the time. “I see the marriage and the harmony and the teamwork between music and nature, and it has called me really strongly in this project.”

“Eden” stretches across four centuries of music, from the 17th to the 21st, with composers such as Gluck, Handel, Mahler, and Wagner. There’s also a new work by Oscar-winner Rachel Portman, called “The First Morning of the World,” with lyrics written by Gene Scheer.

The 1908 Charles Ives song “The Unanswered Question,” provides an opener, DiDonato says, that puts listeners on a journey.

“The hair on the back of my neck just stood up at least for two minutes straight when I heard this piece,” she says. “Sure enough, that's how we start the concert, and it was a really inspired choice because it sets a mood.”

Sergi Jasanada
DiDonato's latest project, "Eden," is an album and concert program focused on climate change.

There’s also a nod to her home state of Kansas.

“We put (Aaron) Copland in there, speaking of the horizon of the Kansas landscape,” she says. “And it somehow, I think, builds a timelessness into the program and a constant surprise that feels very fluid and very organic, but majestic in a way.”

DiDonato says she’s responding to the times we live in, with division and a lack of connection to the world around us. She says “Eden” provides a reminder of what it is to reconnect.

“To feel that sense of tranquility and harmony,” she says, “watching 20 different people on stage come together and make one sound harmoniously, in balance.”

As part of the concert program, DiDonato sends audience members home with seeds “to plant in the ground — seeds of hope.”

“I am so grateful for the chance of bringing this to life. It’s been in my head for so long, and I've been trying to explain the concept to people,” she says. “And now that it's been born, it's quite an experience, I have to say, almost more than any other concert I've given, that feels so acutely connected to this moment in time.”

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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