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This Is Why Opera Star Joyce DiDonato Is So Drawn To Chausson's 19th-Century Song Cycle

Hugo Kerr/Unsplash

Ernest Chausson's Poeme de l'amour et de la mer is a 19th-century song cycle about love, loss and the sea and illustrates the way music and poetry can move us.

Listen to Yannick Nézet-Séguin lead The Philadelphia Orchestra in a 2018 concert featuring this work by Chausson with soloist Joyce DiDonato on Sunday, October 3rd at 1 PM on WRTI 90.1, and Monday, October 4th at 7 PM on WRTI HD-2.

Born in Paris in 1855, Ernest Chausson became a student of literature, poetry, and music. In 1890, he combined these passions in Poeme de L'amour et de la mer—a song cycle for soprano and orchestra.

Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is drawn to the interplay between romantic texts of Maurice Bouchor and Chausson's lush orchestration, says the work should be played more often.

"This is just an amazing collection of poems and it got me thinking how color in symphonic music can be ... a way of getting to a true soul of a piece."

"I love being able to step into those phrases and into the poetry of it all and just get lost a little bit in it," says mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. This is something to be discovered by an audience. You can enter into the texture and into the sound world very immediately as an audience member and then it carries you away."

Such is the power of music, she says, and it should be shared beyond the concert hall—a belief that's led her to sing in prisons, refugee camps, and with children in underdeveloped countries around the world, bringing music into their classrooms. 

She speaks passionately about hearing children talk about how they feel free when they sing.

"I've seen firsthand how powerful that is. It is a tool to change the world because it changes people's vision of themselves. It connects them into their community and into themselves in a way that very few other things can. And if you have human beings that are connecting, there is power in that."


Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.