“Joyce DiDonato’s presence in both works is a major factor in the desirability of the new set. The cantata has been recorded in the past by both sopranos and mezzos, its in-between vocal range being where DiDonato’s high mezzo lies. She has the authority for the Egyptian queen in the darker strength of her lower notes, but also a soprano-like radiance as Cleopatra approaches death —vibrant from first note to last.”

Financial Times

DiDonato’s very measured and ceremonious performance may be the biggest selling point of the current release. As ever, she phrases intelligently and despite the occasional harshness in tone manages to imbue every word with a distinctly emotional subtext. Her “Prologue” then ranks among the more idiosyncratic on record, not as lush as Jessye Norman’s (under Riccardo Muti) but just as memorable in terms of musical ingenuity, including a wealth of shading and dynamic variation.”


“Celle-ci est un atout non négligeable, l’expressivité de DiDonato étant relayée par la direction très raffinée de John Nelson (superbe « Méditation » !).”

Le Devoir

“La mezzo américaine en livre une version d’anthologie, bouleversante par la vie dont elle anime la moindre phrase, le moindre mot. L’œuvre est géniale, la chanteuse touche au sublime tant le théâtre et la musique sont intimement liés, la voix répondant à toutes les intentions de l’actrice. Du très grand art.”

Première Loge

“ … an interpretation that we believe ranks without a hitch on the tops of the discography, very popular peaks (Baker, Norman, Graham , Gens) and perhaps even in the lead, so much does she win the support in the five parts of this scene whose audacity frightened the jury of the Prix de Rome in 1829.

The pain, the noble wrath of the queen unfolds over the entire length of a voice leaning on sepulchral bass, rising impassively towards powerfully stamped trebles.
We know which Dido and which Marguerite Joyce DiDonato was already in this Strasbourg series. We will find her legato, her mastery of long Berliozian lines in the Lento cantabile , “Ah how far away these days are”, and John Nelson breathes with her and makes the orchestra breathe in this staircase theme, whose mid-repeat -voice will be even more astonishing (with the coquetry of a pianissimo descending coloratura). The fierce pride of the queen, her pain, everything passes through the colors of the voice.

The last words will graze the inaudible in an agony that the orchestra will watch out for… Long silences arranged by Nelson, an assumed dramatism right down to the last words “Cleopatra, by… leaving… life… becomes worthy of… Caesar again! » followed by the last sentence, also dying, of the double basses… All very inspired, and skilfully constructed. Great art.”

Forum Opéra

“Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato once again heads the solo team, her every word in the Strophes section of the Introduction carrying weight. The booklet contains just the French texts, with no translations, but you scarcely need them when the vocal lines are projected with such emotional engagement and openness.

DiDonato yet again demonstrates her extraordinary gift for singing the French composer’s music with emotional engagement and coupled with superb technique. From the opening pages, where she really nails the imperiousness of the Egyptian queen, to the barely whispered final words as she succumbs to the asp’s poison, this is a thrillingly compelling performance.”


“DiDonato identifiziert sich in hochdramatischer Attacke und glühender Intensität mit der Rolle der ägyptischen Königin kurz vor ihrem Tod und reiht sich damit… in die Reihe der großen Berlioz-Primadonnen… Den faszinierenden Monolog aus unendlichem Leid, bitterer Schmach, Selbstanklage und Erlösung gestaltet DiDonato als Psychogramm einer zum Selbstmord bereiten Frau. Besonders überwältigt die Meditation „Grands Pharaons, nobles Lagides“, die zum schönsten und wuchtigsten gehört, was Berlioz überhaupt komponiert hat. In verstörend realistischer Lautmalerei und opernhafter Eindringlichkeit endet die Szene mit dem Biss einer giftigen Schlange in die Brust und der Agonie der legendären Königin.”

Online Merker

“De succesvolle Berlioz-serie van specialist John Nelson en het Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg heeft een vervolg gekregen. Hoofdmoot vormt Roméo et Juliette, de uitgebreide symfonie met vocale bijdragen. Solisten zijn Cyrille Dubois, Christopher Maltman en Joyce DiDonato. Die laatste zingt ook de dramatische cantate La mort de Cléopâtre, waarmee Berlioz alweer niet de Prix de Rome won. Voor ons nu onbegrijpelijk. De grillige partituur krijg van Nelson het volle pond, en laat het drama maar over aan DiDonato. Haar aanroepen van de dode farao’s bezorgt kippenvel.”


“L’intervention de Joyce DiDonato dans le premier mouvement de la symphonie dramatique est lumineuse, angélique, aux accents perlés des harpes imitant la lyre antique. Elle sait trouver le ton désincarné qui sied, d’un vibrato filé réduit au strict nécessaire.”