“It was hard to imagine a more compelling soloist than mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, a Chicago favorite making her CSO debut. She floated the vocal lines with a pliant, warmly appealing sound that was even in quality throughout its range, a wealth of subtle colorings, clear Italian diction and an interpretive intelligence that was caring of every twilit mood and complex emotion. Here was a performance as alluring as the tangerine-colored, neo-Grecian, off-the-shoulder gown DiDonato sported.

She was at her very best where the music was best — the penultimate song, to whose rueful remembrance she brought a rapturous intensity of tone and touching expressive identification. Muti secured a magical orchestral fade into the seventh and final song, which returned to the mood of the first. The singer could not have wished for an accompanist more considerate of balance or an orchestra more alive to such evocative effects as the babbling brook of the second song or the shimmering ocean waves of the fourth. This was the third Martucci piece Muti has led with the CSO and the best of the lot.”

John von Rhein – Chicago Tribune

“Certainly, Joyce DiDonato, resplendent in a silk orange dress, brought the finest possible advocacy to this intriguing work … she soon was in synch with Martucci’s ruminative style and displayed the consummate artistry local audiences know from her many appearances at Lyric Opera. She conveyed the intense emotional outpouring of “Un vago mormorio mi giunge” and was equally impassioned in the ensuing “Al folto bosco, placida ombria,” with notably sensitive word-painting in this deeply felt setting.”

Lawrence A. Johnson – Chicago Classical Review

“DiDonato was making her Chicago Symphony debut at these concerts, although Lyric Opera fans will remember her from 2008 as the feisty young heroine in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” from 2010 as the boyish Cherubino in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and from 2014 as the troubled Sesto, friend and betrayer of the emperor, in Mozart’s “La clemenza di Tito.”

In the Martucci, this very smart singer inhabited the role of an unnamed heroine trapped in her memories of ecstatic nights and subsequent torment — she was seduced, loved and abandoned. Martucci was Italian, yes, but clearly also an internationally savvy composer with masterful Germanic underpinning, one who assimilated influences of Schubert and Brahms and Mahler — and also Wagner, who in his themes of sexual love also violated traditional harmonic taboos.

As the lyrics of “La canzone dei recordi” told of burning passion, whose memory is “vanishing into the far away indefinite horizon,” Martucci’s wavering harmonic dissolutions had a spark of modernism that put me somewhat in mind of “Transfigured Night” by Schoenberg, who exploredthe poetry of forbidden love at the turn of the 20th century with stunning harmonic modulations.

DiDonato and Muti, both shrewd interpreters of words spoken and unspoken, deftly zeroed in on the passion and confusion of the heroine’s subtext. The mere mention of a flower, a breeze, or a brook insistently brought on plush and painful streams of consciousness. The seven poems, framed by the singer’s description of love’s elusive and fleeting season, are exquisitely orchestrated.”

Nancy Malitz – Chicago on the Aisle

“Of course Maestro Muti is never happier than when the human voice is added to the voices of his orchestra, and if the words and music are both from the pens of Italians, so much the better. Making her CSO debut in “La canzone dei ricordi,” was Kansas-born mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, whose exquisite, understated rendering of Martucci’s songs, based on the shimmering, achingly romantic poems of Rocco Emanuele Pagliara, captured the sense of love, loss, longing and memory, with the potent perfume of the ardor of the past finally drifting off into space.

The singer’s honeyed, wide-ranging voice, which has the warm glow of experience tempered by time, is ideally matched to the music. The orchestra creates a sort of natural landscape for these seven songs — with music that is full of fire at times, then like a gentle breeze, then suggestive of rippling water and gentle waves. At moments the sound is almost imperceptible, and when even the lingering memories of love vanish, so, it seems, does the music, turning into a veil of gossamer sound. Throughout, the seamless synchrony between the orchestra and DiDonato — who wiped tears from her eyes when it was all over — was wondrous.”

Hedy Weiss – Chicago Sun Times

“Ms. DiDonato sang with her customary warmth, and sensitivity to the texts. Mr. Muti began with “Contemplazione,” a ruminative 1878 orchestral work by Alfredo Catalani, best known for the intense soprano aria “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” from his seldom-produced opera “La Wally.”

Anthony Tommasini – The New York Times

“DiDonato was the star, her naturally flowing Italian diction, deft attention to detail, and gorgeously refined tone making for a notable performance.”

Sam Jacobson – Bachtrack