Thematic programming of an especially inventive sort has been a calling card of Riccardo Muti’s since the dawn of his career. The thread for this Franco-Italian evening is the Eternal City, depicted by Georges Bizet in the orchestral suite Roma and Ottorino Respighi in the monumental tone poem The Pines of Rome. Roman history informs the incantatory Hector Berlioz cantata Cléopâtre, which moreover was written in an unsuccessful bid to capture the prestigious Prix de Rome. The spell-binding Joyce DiDonato voices the suicidal queen. —M.G.
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