Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, in addition to being one of the busier operatic singers active today, has made a point of giving masterclasses (many of them available on YouTube) to help train and encourage the next generation of singers. Her enthusiasm springs from her own challenges, and the knowledge that often a student is more discouraged than encouraged by people in the industry.
“A lot of times what I’m seeing in the students is not necessarily a vocal deficiency, but there’s usually something personal that’s blocking them,” she says. “And I’ve had a lot of those same issues myself, and I continue to work on a lot of those issues in my own life, and so that makes it more possible to recognize that in other people… I suppose it’s years and years of training, and it’s years of struggling with my own technical difficulties, and trying to overcome, and get better and better.” In the lesson with young soprano Amalia Avilàn Castillo, recorded at Carnegie Hall (see below), in the space of 20 minutes, she makes several important observations, including when something works, don’t try to do it again, but use the same process, and create it anew. “What drives that is a huge love and desire to give people permission to fly… And to be extraordinary. A lot of times young singers hit this wall, where the only thing they’re being shown by the industry is what’s wrong with them. This tone isn’t right yet, and they’re not good enough yet, and… it’s always about how do we improve, and how do we get better. And I’ve been up against that wall many times myself.” Here’s that 2016 masterclass with Castillo singing Mimi’s aria “Donde lieta usci” from La bohème.