“Joyce DiDonato, the guest star of the evening, can make a remarkable performance out of just about anything, and she did precisely that with an unusual selection of Ernest Chausson, the Poème de l’amour et de la mer. This is a rich, romantic piece with grief at its core, and in Tuesday’s performance by DiDonato and the Philadelphians, Chausson’s smoldering music felt especially profound.
DiDonato’s mezzo isn’t one of enormous weight, but her tone is extraordinarily focused, landing like a dart the moment she begins to sing. Her phrases were lavishly crafted, yet she did not just settle for pretty sound; she sang with conviction, living on the dusky edge of her timbre in “La fleur des eaux.” After a bubbly opening, “La mort de l’amour,” quickly turns desolate, and DiDonato followed that shift exquisitely. The orchestra swelled and boiled in the outer movements, drawing a sharp contrast with the soft, brooding Interlude, which grew occasionally turbulent without breaking into a full storm.”
“Though the Chausson Poeme doesn’t always reach American audiences, the piece made the strongest impression of the evening, starting with DiDonato, who took the amorphous text to heart and gave it interpretive intensity that reminded you she just came from playing the tragic Dido in Berlioz’s Les Troyens at the Vienna State Opera.
Her well-projected voice was in good shape with the trademark shimmering vibrato that gives vocal nerds happy flashbacks to the great 1950s Chausson interpreter Irma Kolassi.
DiDonato found darker-than-usual colors in her lower range, but as the piece conjured up the spirits of lost loved ones, her voice grew pale and vibratoless — to great effect — without losing communicative vibrancy.”