She was greeted by an ovation that took her aback – the sort of applause reserved for a Marilyn Horne or Teresa Berganza, recognising their past triumphs on the legendary stage. In this case is was more of a signal to the theatre’s management to get DiDonato back to Milan: she’s not slated for an opera next season, and hasn’t sung at La Scala since La Donna del Lago a couple of years ago. DiDonato has an easy charm on stage, with amusing and informative patter, and she is a captivating actress too: Rossini’s La regata veneziana songs were each perfectly-judged cameos. She knows her beautifully chosen all-Venice programme inside out, and it showed.
The second half began with a scene from Rossini’s Otello. Just a she was reaching the touching (and quiet) end of Desdemona’s prayer a phone went off. Loud and clear from the stalls, with one of those annoying retro ringtones. As DiDonato left the stage during the applause (mixed with calls of “vergogna” – “shame”!) someone shouted out, “If you go home to telephone it would be better,” which was greeted by bravos, and more applause. But as the American diva returned she diffused the atmosphere effortlessly by asking whether, by chance, it was Rossini who had called to see how the aria had gone, adding, in Italian,
They say that this theatre is full of ghosts: grazie Gioachino!
Joyce DiDonato’s first encore was in memory of the Italian conductor Bruno Bartoletti, who died on 8 June. Today would have been his 87th birthday, instead it is the day of his funeral.