Clad in a complicated teal gown the singer later called "a perfect mix of rock 'n' roll and diva glam," she grooved her way through the show. She's an intensely physical performer. Forget the image of a prim soprano parking and barking ? de Niese literally dances on stage. (Who knew that you could totally rock out to Cleopatra's aria "Da Tempeste Il Legno Infranto" from Handel's opera Serse?) The personal charisma and magnetism for which de Niese is famous were on ample display. And it's hard to imagine an artist who has more sheer fun onstage, down to her machine-gun pantomiming in the midst of the Cleopatria aria.
At the same time, de Niese isn't an artist who makes any secret of what hard work singing is. Before a fast run, she stretches out her arms and rubs her hands in anticipation of what's coming next. And on this night, in the surprisingly stuffy air of a mid-January Manhattan night, she frequently brushed her hair away from the back of her neck to cool off. Even during the hushed and beautiful Dowland song "Come Again, Sweet Love Doth Now Invite," de Niese relaxed on a barstool with an almost leonine elegance before stretching out languorously for Monteverdi's "Quel Sguardo Sdegnosetto." Is she a diva for the digital age? Maybe. But what's perhaps more important is the openness of her artistry ? she's just as comfortable on a small club stage as she is at the Met.