Covent Garden Opera, a Saturday in July 2009. On the program: the premiere of Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia, with the role of Rosina sung by Joyce DiDonato, one of the leading mezzo-sopranos of our time. On this evening, however, she ends up taking the saying “break a leg” a bit too literally. After singing her great aria “Una voce poco fà” near the conclusion of the first act, she slips and injures her ankle. With the aid of crutches and a stick, however, she sings and performs the opera to the end, drawing applause for the line, “I’ve a cramp in my foot” (actually in the libretto!) and lengthy standing ovations at the end. She has to wait until an examination after the performance to find out that her foot is broken. But not even this can prevent the Kansas-born singer from going onstage for the season’s remaining performances. Or rather, sitting on stage, as she shows up in the next performances in a wheelchair that is cleverly integrated into the scenery, wearing a pink plaster cast.
DiDonato only refers to herself as a “diva” in her blog, which is entitled “Yankee Diva.”
© Ulla Pilz - Radio Österreich 1


  • 1969 born as the sixth of seven children in Prairie Village, a suburb of Kansas City. Her father is an architect who also leads the choir in the church where her mother plays organ

  • 1995 completes her studies at the apprentice program of the Santa Fe Opera and wins her first prize at the Pavarotti Competition

  • Numerous other prizes follow, including several Grammys and four ECHO Klassik Awards as Singer of the Year between 2010 and 2017

  • 1998 debut at Milan’s La Scala as Rossini’s Cenerentola

  • 2005 Met debut as Cherubino in Le nozze di figaro at the age of thirty-five, first record contract at thirty-seven. DiDonato refers to herself as a late bloomer, but she has since appeared at nearly all the world’s major opera houses

  • DiDonato has featured in over forty CD recordings, many of them solo albums with unusual programs, including Drama Queens, Diva Divo, and most recently, In War and Peace

  • 2016 she plays the title role, the “world’s worst opera singer,” in a docu-fiction film about Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Very socially engaged, Joyce DiDonato is involved in a Carnegie Hall charity project for prisoners, El Sistema Greece, and champions the rights of homosexuals

  • She supports young singers and gives master classes all over the world, some of them YouTube hits

Did you know?

  • Joyce DiDonato likes comparing herself with Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and not only because she hails from Kansas: like Dorothy, she loves travelling the world but knows where her home is. One of her favorite encores is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

  • As a child she participates in a choir and dreams of a career in musicals, singing Billy Joel and Michael Jackson in front of the mirror with a hairbrush as a microphone. She is only converted to opera after seeing Cecilia Bartoli’s visible joy of singing.

  • Before her singing breakthrough, DiDonato works for a long time as a waitress, where instead of singing Rossini, she flambées “tournedos à la Rossini.”

  • Though she has since conquered the bel canto repertoire, she particularly enjoys singing Rossini. She loves his strong, independent female characters, and his music is virtually made for her; like Mozart and Handel, he makes her voice happy.

  • She experiences the election of Donald Trump as President of the U.S. as a personal affront to herself as an artist and to her friends who are black or homosexual, as an attack on everything she holds dear.

  • Joyce DiDonato was married twice and has retained the name of her first husband. Her second marriage, to conductor Leonardo Vordoni, also ended in divorce. She currently lives with her partner, a dancer and passionate amateur cook, in Barcelona.

  • Wherever she travels for her performances, one of the first things she does is find a way to stay physically fit – by practicing kickboxing, for example.