Joyce DiDonato returns to Chicago to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti on May 2, 4 & 7 in Orchestra Hall and on May 3 at Wheaton College, as part of the CSO’s annual series of concerts in the institution’s 2,357-seat Edman Memorial Chapel. Following her performances of Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust in Strasbourg, she takes on another work of Berlioz, his La Mort de Cléopâtre (The Death of Cleopatra). Mr. Muti will also conduct the CSO in two dramatic and evocative works about Rome: Bizet’s Roma and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.

CSO Sound & Stories describes Berlioz’s scène lyrique saying: “Based on a text by Pierre-Ange Vieillard, a 19th-century French poet, La Mort de Cléopâtre tells of Cleopatra’s suicide on Aug. 12, 30 B.C., after the defeat of her naval fleet during the pivotal Battle of Actium. She invokes the spirits of the pharaohs and wonders if she has lived up to the great rulers of the past. “Here was an idea worth expressing in music,” wrote Berlioz in his Memoirs. “I had often in my imagination conceived a musical equivalent of Juliet’s wonderful monologue, ‘How if, when I am laid into the tomb,’ a passage that had something in common, at least in its sense of dread, with the feelings contained in the invocation which our French rhymester had put into the mouth of Cleopatra.” In November, Ms. DiDonato will perform the work with the CSO at Carnegie Hall, as part of her second Perspectives series.