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April 22, 2022

🌎 Earth Day Reflections: ‘EDEN’ with Joyce DiDonato

Joyce DiDonato in EDEN

Joyce DiDonato, Maxim Emalyanychev, and il Pomo d’Oro in EDEN. All photos by Peter Smith.

It Begins with a Seed…

One year ago today, UMS announced that Joyce DiDonato’s visionary EDEN project would come to Ann Arbor in the 2021/22 season.

“EDEN is a call to action to build a paradise for today: to fertilize, nourish, and protect the pure bliss that the deepest part of us knows and yearns for: the unpolluted perfume of a linden branch; the comforting shade of a towering tree; the breathtaking sanctity of pure love; the generosity of the endless light that breaks open for us every single morning; the dying to the world we have known, only to embrace and live aloud in our heaven, our love, and our song.”
—Joyce DiDonato

With an album, a concert tour, and collaborative activities that celebrate the majesty, might, and mystery of nature, EDEN inspires audiences in thought-provoking beauty on and off the stage.

UMS is proud to be a co-commissioner of this groundbreaking artistic work. After touring Europe to rave reviews, EDEN in Concert sprang to life in Ann Arbor on April 14, 2022. And today, on Earth Day, we are proud to share some of our favorite reflections of this memorable performance:

Starting with An Unanswered Question

Joyce DiDonato in 'EDEN'
With the audience in darkness, conductor Maxim Emelyanychev and ensemble il Pomo d’Oro began the program with the opening chords of Charles Ives’s haunting The Unanswered Question. Joyce emerged from the audience singing the piece’s iconic soaring line, making her way to the Hill Auditorium stage.

Four Centuries of Song

Joyce DiDonato in 'EDEN'
The musical selections of EDEN spanned four centuries of song — from Handel, to Mahler, to a stunning new composition by Rachel Portman titled “The First Morning of the World.”

Set and Lighting

Joyce DiDonato in 'EDEN'
The UMS production team and EDEN creative team, including stage director Marie Lambert-Le Bihan, scenic and costume designer Vita Tzykun, and lighting director John Torres, transformed Hill Auditorium into an unforgettable visual masterpiece.
Joyce DiDonato in 'EDEN'
Joyce DiDonato in 'EDEN'

Engaging local singers

Joyce DiDonato with the Ann Arbor Youth Chorale
Inspired by the idea “If trees could sing…”, Joyce invites local choirs in every city on tour to join her on stage to sing a special song of hope. “Seeds of Hope” was written by 11-13-year-olds from one of the first EDEN workshops in London. Watch UMS teaching artist Karilú Alarcon Forshee work with the Ann Arbor Youth Chorale in preparation for their performance:

A Call for Peace

Joyce DiDonato in 'EDEN'
As a final encore, Joyce ended the performance with Handel’s beloved “Ombra mai fù” from Serse, in a poignant moment of reflection amid the current crisis in Ukraine. The aria’s powerful words brought the program full circle:

Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never disturb your dear peace,
nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.

What seed will you plant today?

Audience members received packets of native seeds, graciously provided by the U-M Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum, as a reminder that we all have the potential to create beauty in our communities.

Continue the journey at as this remarkable program travels the world.

Joyce DiDonato’s EDEN project is co-commissioned by UMS; the Harriman-Jewell Series, Kansas City; Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation; Cal Performances at University of California, Berkeley; and Stanford Live.

UMS’s performance was presented with permanently endowed support from the Ilene H. Forsyth Choral Union Endowment Fund.