Joyce DiDonato by Pari Dukovic. Used with permission
What can you say about the publicity photo that photographer Pari Dukovic took of Joyce DiDonato?
You can say it is iconoclastic, fascinating, engaging, glamorous, and funny. But there is a lot more to it than simply piling up adjectives. When I first saw this photo I thought, “This is the greatest classical music headshot that I have ever seen.”
And indeed it was. And it is. So today I am trying to understand why.
It Tells Us at Once Who the Artist Really Is
This is the big thing.There is only one other photo of a classical musician that I can think of that does this as well – this 100-year-old photo of Enrico Caruso as Canio in Pagliacci. You look at that picture and you know just who Caruso was as an artist and a man. Dukovic’s photo of Joyce DiDonato does that too. Even if you have never seen her perform (and you’re making a big mistake if that’s so), it immediately connects you to her personality and tells you exactly what makes her unique.
Take a look at these videos and tell me if you don’t agree. And by the way, there are plenty more of her to watch online.
First, here’s what she can do onstage, in a sparkling concert performance of “Tanti affetti” from Rossini’s La donna del lago. She really brings it, right?
For something completely different, let’s watch her perform “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of the 2014 World Series. I really like this video. She left the diva hair and dress in the locker room and, again, she brings it. She’s a real live person, right?
And for a glimpse of her intelligence, humility and sense of humor, here’s some footage from a master class that she gave at Juilliard back in 2013. Just great! It’s remarkable that she is devoting time right now, at the peak of her career, to help student singers.
The Wink, the Wink, the Wink
What a triumph that wink is. I don’t think that any other wink has ever gotten so much done. (Helen of Troy’s smile launched a thousand ships, but we don’t know if a wink was involved.) This one pulls us in and says, “We are in this together, right, and aren’t we having a ball?” It pokes fun at the very genre of “glam” diva headshots and says to us, “Aren’t they all so silly . . . but aren’t I actually better at doing one than anyone else has ever been?” And you know what? She is.
Incidentally, she can definitely pull off the glam thing too, as you can see in many of the other headshots on her website.
It Has that Hair
The hair, like the wink, is both beautiful and a little spoofish. On one level it is just bombshell glamorous. On another, it veers a little toward the hairstyle of the Muppet character Beaker. And so like the wink, it works from the inside out to poke fun at traditional diva glamor headshots.
It’s Damn Gutsy
I can’t think of a major singer other than Ms. DiDonato who would have the panache to use a publicity photo like hers. (Photos of the French soprano Patricia Petibonedge into this territory, but not quite as far.) Of course, Ms. DiDonato is able to carry it off because she is already an artist of international stature with an immense following.
About Pari Dukovic
Dukovic was born in Istanbul and now works in New York. If you visit his website, you’ll see his portraits of Barack Obama, Yoko Ono, Robert de Niro, Jerry Seinfeld and many other icons of modern culture. Take a look, it’s astonishing. His portraits don’t seem like photos at all, but eye-to-eye encounters with living people. That’s part of his magic, which brought us the magic of Joyce DiDonato. And for that, I think we ought to thank them both.