A bad album by Joyce Didonato is such a rarity that it warrants serious attention. The release at hand is a live recording of a Wigmore Hall recital just before last Christmas – not so much a recital as a tissue of decorations around a half-hour monologue by Joyce’s favourite composer Jake Heggie, ll of them accompanied by string quartet.
The monologue is an evocation of the life of Camille Claudel, model and muse to the sculptor and painter Auguste Rodin. A sculptor herself, Claudel never gets the recognition she possibly deserves and winds up sadly in an asylum. It’s a touching story, to which Heggie’s music adds very little by way of personality.
As for the decorations, five songs by Richard Strauss gain nothing from a boxy new string setting by members of the Brentano Quartet and Debussy’s Trois chansons de Bilitis are definitely not improved by Jake Heggie’s quartet accompaniment. Joyce, in fabulous voice, simply coasts through this odd assortment, adding Strauss’s Morgen and Gruber’s Silent Night by way of seasonal encore gifts.
An album release might have seemed a good idea in the glow of a post-concert sherry on a wet West End night. In the cold light of a late August morning, it does no-one any favours.