Joyce DiDonato

Songplay
(Warner Classics/Erato)

Several of Songplay’s selections are staples from 24 Italian Songs and Arias—repertoire that lives in near infamy among classical vocal students for its universally familiar stagnancy. Yet, both these and selections from the Great American Songbook fit well with the underlying drivers of Joyce DiDonato’s latest work: remembering not to take things too seriously and musing over the ever-discussed, but often forgotten, meaning of love.

From the opening seconds of the aria “Se Tu M’ami/Star Vicino,” DiDonato’s intent to revive the playful, liberating potential behind singing about love immediately is apparent. A conventionally delivered piano motif teases dread of an uninspired performance before giving way to a flourish of light percussion, spanning gentle floor toms, shaker and woodblock alongside a subtly plucked bass. All of these parts jump in under Craig Terry’s fluid piano, instantly transforming the aria from stiff to sultry-—a quality only enhanced by DiDonato’s pristine vocals. The ensemble’s performance is nothing short of exemplary, too, begging return plays of DiDonato’s adventurous exploration of the canon.