Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato made an impassioned plea for artists to work harder as a response to global terror attacks when she was named Female Singer of the Year at the Echo Classic Awards for her 2016 work In War & Peace.
Taking centre stage at the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, where her fellow winners included Jonas Kaufmann and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, led by Marin Alsop, DiDonato seized the moment to quote US composer and playwright Jonathan Larson, who said: “The opposite of war is not peace. It’s creation”.
After receiving her award, DiDonato explained that she had spent the past year travelling the world with her musical project In War & Peace: Harmony through Music – which was presented in the UK as part of the Pureland Series for China Exchange, supported by the Pureland Foundation.
War & Peace: Harmony through Music was conceived as DiDonato’s response to the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. Recorded with Il Pomo d’Oro under its principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, DiDonato had originally planned an album with an emphasis on rare arias, but in the light of the tragic events she rethought her approach, giving it wider and deeper resonance.
Even so, she could not have known her message would be so timely. At the Echo Classic Awards, she explained that when she began her tour, “The world looked very different. But with every concert there were tectonic shifts in the fabric of the world,” adding “it’s not always easy to sing a message of peace when all we were seeing was a message of destruction.” What kept DiDonato going was that Larson quote, she said.
DiDonato then continued by praising the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, saying here: “Musicians can come and create music, and recreate music by the great masters who show us the possibility of humanity. It reminds us of what we’re capable of instead of what we see on the news.”
She concluded: “So all of us here and my fellow artists, congratulations; it is an honour to be here with you. We have to work harder, and we have to do more, and we have to sing louder, and we have to create more passionately and more provocatively than ever before because it is what makes sense.”