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Up To Date

Mezzo Soprano Joyce DiDonato Returns Home After Grammy Win

Prairie Village native Joyce DiDonato just won a Grammy for best classical vocal solo and travels the world performing in opera houses far and wide as one of this planet's best-loved mezzo sopranos.

In Kansas, (she now lives in Kansas City, Mo.) DiDonato set out to be an inner-city school music teacher. She didn't love opera, but the scholarship dollars at Wichita State began to flow, and she rolled with it.

Now, the world is her stage and one of those stages will be at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts where she'll make her Helzberg Hall debut this weekend with the Kansas City Symphony.

Tuesday on Up to Date, Joyce DiDonato joins Steve Kraske for a conversation about performing on the world's stages, her love of music education, and what she thinks of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's cuts to arts funding.

HEAR MORE: Joyce DiDonato performs with the Kansas City Symphony this weekend, March 23-25 at the Kauffman Center. The series will be taped by KCPT as part of PBS' Arts Summer Festival 2012. The series is currently sold out, but contact the Symphony box office at 816 471 0400 for up-to-the-minute ticket availability.

 

Born in Kansas and educated at Wichita State University and Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts, Joyce DiDonato trained in the young artist programs of the San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Santa Fe Opera. Her signature parts include the bel canto roles of Rossini, leading the Financial Times to declare of her Elena in La donna del lago, “Simply the best singing I’ve heard in years.” In 2010, DiDonato won the highly-prized Artist of the Year honor at the Gramophone Awards, as well as Recital of the Year award for her album Colbran: Rossini’s Muse. She also collected a German Echo Klassik Award as Female Singer of the Year. Other honors include the Met’s Beverly Sills Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Singer of the Year, citations from Operalia, and recognition by the Richard Tucker and George London foundations. Last season began with DiDonato’s debut at the Deutsche Oper as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. She then returned to Madrid’s Teatro Real for her first European Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and sang Sister Helen in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at Houston Grand Opera. She returned to the Metropolitan Opera in the spring of 2011 for the roles of L’Isolier in Le Comte Ory and Komponist in Ariadne auf Naxos, following with a European tour in the title role of Ariodante with Il complesso barocco, to coincide with the release of her recording of the same opera on Virgin Classics. She triumphed at Covent Garden at the end of the season, in the title role of Massenet’s Cendrillon. Highlights of the current season include the feat of back-to-back title roles at La Scala in Milan (Der Rosenkavalier and La donna del lago), the world premiere of the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera, concerts with the New York Philharmonic in New York and London, the title role of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda at Houston Grand Opera, and singing in her hometown with the Kansas City Symphony at the brand-new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. An exclusive recording artist with EMI/Virgin Classics, DiDonato’s latest solo CD, Diva Divo, won the 2012 Grammy® award for Classical Solo Performance.

After growing up on the east coast and spending his first professional years in classical music, Stephen moved to Kansas City in 1995 expecting to leave after a few years. (Clearly that didn't happen.) More than two decades and three kids later, he doesn't regret his decision to stick around. Stephen began his career in public radio as a classical music host. As the founding producer of Up to Date with Steve Kraske, he received a number of local and national awards for his work on the program. Since 2014 he's overseen KCUR's broadcast operations. When Stephen isn't at KCUR's studios, he's probably adding more stamps to his passport with his KU professor wife and their three kids. His son almost made him cry during a drive through the Rockies when he said at age 8: "Dad, can we listen to public radio?" Sniff sniff.
Steve Kraske is the host of KCUR's Up To Date. Follow him on Twitter @stevekraske.