Though her voice and sunny disposition are immediately recognizable, Cecilia Bartoli has the knack, much like the big pop stars, to slightly reinvent herself with every new project. Take a look at 4 of these incarnations.
The Perfect Rossini Mezzo
Her warm timbre, dazzling coloratura and luminous personality made the young Bartoli the perfect Rosina or Cenerentola. So it’s no surprise that it was signor Rossini (along with Herr Mozart) who opened the doors to the major opera houses for this Roman singer. Even today it’s an overwhelming and uplifting experience to hear her sing the final aria from La Cenerentola – thankfully it’s still a favourite encore for Bartoli at concerts!
A Musical Sherlock
You’re more likely to bump into this diva in some dusty archive than at a glitzy fashion gala. Her Vivaldi album from 1999 set the blueprint for pretty much all of her consecutive musical projects and proved a winning formula, both artistically and commercially: a clear concept, meticulous research, first recordings of forgotten gems, and bold marketing. It’s a recipe that seems to make everyone happy: fans, critics and record executives.
The 2009 album Sacrificium, a collection of forgotten arias (and some greatest hits) for castrati is a good example of the Bartoli formula: a catchy concept (chopped off penises!), fabulous music (Porpora! Caldara! Graun!) and a full on marketing campaign - it helps that Bartoli, in true mezzo fashion, doesn’t mind dressing up, even if it involves some facial hair!. And of course Bartoli’s committed, flawless singing.
Her work as a music historian has fuelled some striking and controversial choices. After an album and tour dedicated to legendary 19th century singer Maria Malibran, she claimed the leading belcanto roles of Amina (La Sonnambula) and Norma, traditionally sung by sopranos. Bartoli’s arguments that her voice is closer to those of the women who created these roles may not convince everybody, but at least her interpretations always give us some musical thrills, and a lot to talk about!