From prison reform, the plight of refugees, the need for music education for all, to the industry-defining In War and Peace, opera superstar Joyce DiDonato has long been an artist who has dedicated herself to creating and initiating projects that challenge and galvanise the public, transcending the physical confines of the concert hall.
EDEN is DiDonato's latest multi-faceted initiative, one that she will dedicate much of her time over the next four years to, uniting music, drama and education to confront questions of our individual connection to Nature. Comprised of a tour of over forty-five venues across five continents between 2022 and 2024, an Erato album, a ground-breaking education programme and multiple partnerships, EDEN's long-term impact and legacy will be far reaching.
DiDonato's passionate belief, and the driving force behind EDEN, is that a collective return to our 'best selves' is needed to not only address our current climate crisis, but the crisis of heart as well. By examining our relationship to the natural world and our unique place within it, EDEN invites the listener to explore and search for answers about belonging, purpose and healing.
'With each passing day', writes DiDonato, 'I trust more and more in the perfect balance, astonishing mystery and guiding force of the natural world around us, how much Mother Nature has to teach us. EDEN is an invitation to return to our roots and to explore whether or not we are connecting as profoundly as we can to the pure essence of our being, to create a new EDEN from within and plant seeds of hope for the future.'
Alongside her long-standing orchestral partners, Il Pomo d'Oro and conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, DiDonato will collaborate with stage director Marie Lambert and Academy Award-winning composer Rachel Portman, combining music from different genres with a stage setting designed to connect the audience with the very heart of the natural world around us.
DiDonato describes how, in challenging times, contact with the natural world in conjunction with her musical life makes her 'feel connected and sense that I'm an integral part of something bigger. A seed is awakened within me. This is precisely when I seek out the comfort and connection of music: with each passing day I trust more and more in the perfect balance, astonishing mystery, and guiding force of the musical world. Both nature and music are showing us the way - a way dictated by harmony and balance. Will we answer the call?'
The Erato album EDEN will be released on 25 February 2022 and the international tour begins on 2 March 2022 in Brussels. The repertoire for both is richly diverse, pulling from the timeless theme of nature which has captivated composers over the centuries with each track exploring an aspect of humankind's relationship with nature and will, in DiDonato's words, 'have no boundaries - like a wild garden'.
Ranging from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, and embracing such composers as Handel, Gluck, Wagner, Mahler, Ives, Copland and Oscar-winner Rachel Portman - who DiDonato has commissioned to write a new work specially for EDEN - the programme is at the heart of this visionary project.
Crossing a number of musical genres, EDEN opens with two pieces that pose questions: dating from 1908, Charles Ives' enigmatic The Unanswered Question, in which DiDonato sings lines usually assigned to a trumpet, and a new commission from the Academy Award winning British composer Rachel Portman. For EDEN, Portman has teamed up with American poet and writer Gene Scheer to compose The First Morning of the World. Scheer, admired for his collaborations with such prominent composers as Jake Heggie (including the song cycle Camille Claudel: Into the fire, written for DiDonato and released on Erato in 2018) acknowledges, through its evocative text, that this is a moment rife with questions, wondering about 'the sounds and the songs from the first morning of the world'.
An oratorio aria by Josef Mysliveček is taken from a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve, as the Angel of Justice utters a stern and bitter warning to his people. From the earlier part of the 18th century Handel is represented by his famous Largo, a breathtaking ode to the refreshing shade of a plane tree. The early glories of Italian opera are evoked in an aria from Cavalli's opera of gods and humans, La Calisto. Its story opens on a scorched, arid landscape, but it ends with Calisto, its heroine, ascending to the stars.
Integral to EDEN is a new and industry-defining model that will set a new standard for the local impact artists can have in amplifying the power of their performances. By engaging with multiple international partners, EDEN ensures that its education and community work is central to the project, and that its legacy is real and long-lasting.
As International Teaching Artists Collaborative (ITAC)'s Climate Ambassador, DiDonato has been working with them on the design and delivery of EDEN Engagement — an interdisciplinary music-nature education and community programme for children's choirs and school groups across the globe, under the guidance of Eric Booth, Co-Founder of ITAC. The vision is to employ local Teaching Artists in every city on the tour, and work with them to amplify young peoples' and others' experiences of EDEN, using their voices and creative projects to gain a deeper understanding of nature and their direct impact within the world. Local children's choirs will also get the opportunity to perform on stage with DiDonato in the EDEN concerts.
Botanic Gardens Conservation International and DiDonato have created The EDEN Sustainability Challenge that poses simple goals which demonstrably bring a more sustainable lifestyle. BGCI are providing native seeds for audience members to plant, bringing a rare and singular opportunity for the classical music community to literally and collectively plant a new 'Eden' across the globe, actively participating in regeneration, awareness and creation.
Posted 8 December 2021 by Simon Millward