“What a journey it was” Clive Paget wrote in his Limelight review of Joyce DiDonato’s Winterreise in New York’s Carnegie Hall in December 2019. And what a journey it is in this recording of the event that finds DiDonato and accompanist Yannick Nézet-Séguin boldly shifting the focus away from Schubert’s low-born, lovelorn narrator to the hitherto off-stage object of his rejected affections.
Initially struggling to find an interpretative way into the decidedly masculine perspective of Wilhelm Müller’s text, DiDonato kept returning, she comments in her booklet note, to the nagging query “But what about her?” Taking her cue from Massenet’s bereaved Charlotte, left with only a box of letters to remember her departed Werther, DiDonato framed her performance on stage by presenting each song (complete with a much-used prop journal) as if being read from a treasured keepsake.

Joyce DiDonato

If the theatricality of the idea fails to translate into audio, what remains, and powerfully so, is the sense of heightened emotions it leaves behind. Pitched somewhere between Lieder and opera, DiDonato adeptly balances the demands of both, making much...