- Riccardo Muti with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, May 2 in Orchestra Hall: There was an air of celebration and relief as Muti and the CSO played their first post-strike concert. The maestro led a radiant performance of a piece the orchestra hadn’t played since Theodore Thomas, its first music director, was at the podium in 1894: Bizet’s “Roma.” Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato was radiant in a lyric scene from Berlioz’s “The Death of Cleopatra”; and the orchestra sounded sumptuous in Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.”
- On Dec. 15 at Carnegie Hall, DiDonato delivered an inspired concept for Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise: Normally sung by men, DiDonato portrays the protagonist’s beloved as she reads his journal — each song one of the entries written as he trudges towards self-imposed isolation and death. Having sung Rossini for years, DiDonato gave the music great precision, warmly hugged by Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s rubato-prone pianism. But in the final song — a terrifying hallucination of a broken-down hurdy-gurdy man — the journal book was put away, with DiDonato experiencing it as if seeing the angel of death claiming her beloved. A stroke of genius. It’s available on video replay on Medici TV through March 16.
- Agrippina at the Royal Opera House, London. Starry Handelian cast led by Joyce DiDonato in Barrie Kosky’s gleaming staging.
- Treble contributor Konstantin Rega named Joyce DiDonato’s album Songplay one of the best albums of 2019.
Photo credit: Chris Singer