As a committed fan of BBC 4’s Desert Island Discs, I am delighted that Joyce DiDonato will be revealing her list of eight recordings, a book and a luxury item that she would take if she was to be cast away on a desert island.
Of course, it’s the chat between the music that is the captivating aspect of the programme – Tom Hanks broke down in tears more than once, “Kirsty, what are you doing to me!”. Kirsty, is Kirsty Young, the programme’s presenter (and resident amateur psychiatrist) since 2006. Her velvety soft and intimate voice has helped coax the most eye-opening confessions and touching memories from her guests.
Music, and classical music in particular, has been one of the most touched on area by the programme which welcomes actors and politicians, academics and comedians.
Opera singers’ Desert Island choices over 70 years
Richard Tauber, back in 1942, had Marlene Dietrich singing Falling In Love Again on his playlist, and Anna Moffo included Barbra Streisand singing People. Beverly Sills wanted to hear Frank Sinatra crooning When The World Was Young, Thomas Quasthoff chose tracks by Chick Corea and Stevie Wonder, Leontyne Price asked for Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, Roberto Alagna had Django Reinhardt on his list and Kiri Te Kanawa wanted Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.
Luciano Pavarotti’s strange choice as his luxury was a bicycle, so presumably he didn’t think there would be much sand on the island, but Renato Scotto’s luxury was a little more upmarket, choosing a Silver shadow Rolls Royce. Although Scotto wanted to hear The Beatles sing Yesterday, if she had to choose just one record it would be her own recording of Sola, perduta, abbandonata. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf went one better and chose all her own recordings, as (almost) did Birgit Nilsson who, as a luxury, wanted some Swedish crossword puzzles. Placido Domingo didn’t choose any of his own recordings but, as the programme was winding up, said that his luxury would be a video player and cassettes of his own performances. Montserrat Caballé didn’t select any of her own recordings either, but she did request discs by both Schwarzkopf and Nilsson. Most of Jose Carreras’s eight discs were recording by other tenors. Maggie Teyte, back in 1951, took a different tack and went mainly for orchestral recordings, as did Ileana Cotrubas.
One of Jessye Norman’s picks was Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech as well as a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Diaries. Janet Baker wanted to take Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Bryn Terfel wanted to reread Angela’s Ashes, Peter Pears asked for anything by E.M Forster, Beverly Sills fancied Gone With The Wind and Mirella Freni wanted a copy in Italian. Mario del Monaco and Angela Gheorghiu both requested English grammar books.
One of Nicolai Gedda’s discs was The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and his luxury was a ‘rubber mattress’… Joan Sutherland sensibly asked for a bed, mattress included, as did Elisabeth Soderstrom and Peter Pears. Jonas Kaufmann and Renée Fleming were also down-to-earth wanting just coffee, Regina Resnik was practical wanting to take her toothbrush and Kirsten Flagstad only asked for knitting needles and wool. Felicity Lott, though, fancied “Lots of champagne and pistachio nuts!”, while Sherill Milnes preferred “Herrings in sour cream”. Irmgard Seefried thought she’s take a string of pearls, and both Margaret Price and Grace Bumbry asked for perfume. Gina Cigna and Anna Moffo wanted to take a piano. Marilyn Horne was thinking big in taking Michelangelo’s Pieta with her, Robert Merrill wanted Michelangelo’s Moses, and Ileana Cotrubas went even bigger by asking for the Sistine Chapel! By the way, Eva Turner asked for castanets.
Ian Bostridge said he wanted “A solar computer loaded with pictures of my family and friends”.
Joyce DiDonato’s Desert Island Discs can be heard on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 25 September at 11.15am, and afterward can be downloaded as a podcast.