Juno, the ancient and mythical Queen of Everything, seemed a bit too perky.
"Do you understand what's at stake?" asked her teacher, world-class opera star Joyce DiDonato.
Understanding did begin to dawn on Juno, aka Krystin Skidmore, studying for her master's degree in opera performance at Wichita State University and getting a master class in front of a crowd Thursday night at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Skidmore, singing an aria from Handel's "Semele," had a fine voice indeed. But since her character's husband, top god Jupiter, was sleeping around with a mere mortal, Juno needed to spew more venom. Enunciate her words. Infuse the melody with disgust.
"You have disdain for her and everybody that's not you," DiDonato intoned, to laughter from the audience.
And that's how you start to become an opera diva.
DiDonato, the internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano who grew up in Prairie Village, is back in town for this weekend's performances with the Kansas City Symphony. But on Thursday, she added an extra, free appearance as part of the Symphony's "Inside Music Series."
As an appreciative audience watched in the Kauffman's Helzberg Hall, she worked with Skidmore and then Cassandra Gal, a soprano at the University of Missouri who tackled Rossini's "Bel raggio."
Symphony conductor Michael Stern joined DiDonato onstage for a Q&A, in which she talked about her life, her first piano teacher (Miss Anderson, who was beaming in the front row) and the arts.
DiDonato on opera: "When we are free to summon the depths of humanity, then it is the greatest art form on the planet."
On how to succeed in opera (or anything): "Don’t come in being generic. Don't come in fitting their mold. Come in as who you are, be great and own it."
DiDonato performs with the Symphony at 8 p.m. March 16 and 17 and 2 p.m. March 18 in Helzberg Hall. See kcsymphony.org or call 816-471-0400.
The next master class in the series will be given by cellist Yo-Yo Ma at 6:30 p.m. March 22. Free tickets are available through kcsymphony.org.