Cecilia Bartoli's Sospiri

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What does a greatest hits album look like from an artist who insists on taking the road less traveled? The answer may be found in our Album of the Week: Cecilia Bartoli's Sospiri, a collection of lyrical operatic scenes and arias extending from Handel and Mozart to Rossini, Bellini and Fauré, with several lesser-known gems along the way.

Bartoli, of course, is one of opera’s true superstars, having sold more than 10 million albums and won numerous international awards. Yet in recent years, the Italian singer has also been formidably elusive artist. She performs only in a limited number of venues, and seldom in New York. She last appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in 1998, as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro; there are no scheduled American appearances on her calendar in the coming year.

Nevertheless, Bartoli's regular album releases are unfailingly lavish events. This collection comes in both in a standard CD/download but also in a two-disc "prestige edition," with a 56-page hardcover book. Musically, it's a fine snapshot of her wide-ranging tastes, ebullient personality and stylistic insight. There are arias by Mozart and Rossini, the two composers that made her name in the 1990s, including a new interpretation of Rosina’s "Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville.

There are also the more obscure corners of the baroque repertoire that Bartoli has helped uncover with scholarly detail: the despairing monologue from the title character in Vivaldi’s Farnace; the exquisitely plaintive “Quel buon pastor” by Caldara; and the dramatic “Sposa, non mi conosci” by Giacomelli. While Bartoli has sung less 19th-century Italian repertoire in recent years, this collection has some of that too. Particular standouts include Mascagni's popular “Cherry duet” with Luciano Pavarotti and Bellini’s “Ah! Non credea mirarti” with Juan Diego Florez.

More than two decades into her career, opinion remains divided on Bartoli: some find her singing too mannered, too self-consciously eccentric. Perhaps. Yet it's that same charisma and unpredictability that makes her an artist continually worth watching.

What do you think? Have a look at this video and weigh in below in the comments section below.

Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano


More in:

Comments [14]

Tom Gottshalk from Oviedo, FL

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty...that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need know."

John Keats

Dec. 02 2010 04:30 PM
Pedro from Sao Paulo

Bravo Cecilia!
Grazie per tuo belo canto!

Oct. 30 2010 01:34 PM
KEnneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

Eileen from New York in her comment on yesterday's entries for Cecilia Bartoli thanked me for my critiques and wondered whether I "was" a singer in my "other, previous life."
Eileen, I am composing my third opera [my previous completed operas are "Shakespeare' & 'The Political Shakespeare," and my Wagnerian heldentenor voice is steadily improving in every respect. Please go to my website, www.WagnerOpera.com and you'll be able to download, free, 37 complete selections, "Carnegie Hall LIVE" from my 4 main hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium, concerts, the last 3 solo concerts each 3 hours long, by downloading from Recorded Selections on the Home Page. You asked whether I "was" a teacher. I teach ALL the Wagner opera roles to big voice singers and ALL the Shakespeare roles to professional actors at the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute. Thanks for your comment and be assured that those who are deeply involved in the arts maintain that passion throughout their lives and are eager to continue 'til the "Final Curtain."

Oct. 28 2010 11:20 AM
Jamie from Brooklyn

I adore her, not only for her amazing vocal talent and the care she puts into her craft, but also her artistic integrity and intellegence. She could have any role she wants in any opera house she wants any time she wants, but she's devoted herself to uncovering and presenting neglected works and entire genres. She's a dazzling performer and a serious scholar all in one. Plus I happen to find her extremely atractive.!

Oct. 28 2010 08:52 AM
Nancy Whyte from upper west side-Manhattan

Charisma and unpredictability were two words also used to describe Callas, who never failed to excite and involve her audience.
I find Bartoli to be a thrilling singer. Her voice, and her decisions in how she uses it, never fail to inspire, and transport me.
I have no problem with Bartoli's use of her mouth. She is singing after all, and I have seen much worse in terms of "facial mannerisms" from other present day singers of considerable stature. (No names!)

I like the fantasy and concept of the video. My only problem is with the rather graceless way Bartoli walks. I find this distracting and detracts from the artistry of the whole.

Oct. 27 2010 08:38 PM
Natalie from Lower Manhattan

Her voice is beautiful. She sings with all her heart. Thanks for featuring it.

Oct. 27 2010 06:02 PM
Eileen from New York, NY

Dear Mr. Bennett -

Keep writing your reviews, I enjoy and learn so much from them. Were you a singer or a music teacher in your other life?

Oct. 27 2010 04:43 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

The film about the famous castrato singer Farinelli states on the sound track that the voice is that of Cecilia Bartoli. The historic Farinelli lived long, long before recordings could capture his voice. Regarding interpretation, it is vitally important that the totality of one's body language, concentration, projection of the essence of the character, not only the words, but also the subtext, be clearly revealed in sound and sight. But, mugging is another thing, and that is cause for discussion as to whether it is warranted by the circumstances.

Oct. 26 2010 04:31 PM
Helen from Puerto Rico

Cecilia Bartoli is great! She is a wonderful artist who is in love with her art, music. I wish her the best!!! Brava Cecilia!

Btw, she wasn't the voice for Farinelli, just saying! :-)

Oct. 26 2010 02:47 PM
Bert from UES

Wow, this recording of Una Voce Poco Fa is insane! Such a light and clear voice. That said, I much prefer listening to Bartoli though than seeing her. Too much mugging for the audience and eccentric facial ticks. What do you all think?

Oct. 26 2010 01:41 PM
John J.Christiano from Franklin NJ

This may go against the other opinions but I enjoy her singing because of the way she "sings with her face". Any good singer merges his/her entire body in the song. Hold back any part and you hold back the music.

Oct. 26 2010 08:38 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

CECILIA BARTOLI has demonstrated beyond all contradiction that vocally she can sing the fastest passages with the greatest fluency and manage great intervallic pitch range leaps without a gear change. Her musicianship and precise intonation are a marvel. Her acting is commensurate with her vocal skill. She is the complete singing actress. The only drawback, IMHO, is her excessive mouth repositioning dramatically emphasizing her intense involvement in the drama taking place. In her castrati "rep" and in her being the voice of Farinelli, the famous castrato, in the film of the same name, her flexibility, "velocity" and wide range are triumphantly paraded before us, but the "ferocious" mouth positions consort to undermine one's viewing. Listening to the sound only on a regular CD or closing one's eyes while hearing a video, might do enough for her fans, who rightly adore her spectacular vocal feats.

Oct. 25 2010 07:26 PM

I can't help but become immersed in her performance. Bartoli's voice does not have an edge but I know she pays attention to the smallest detail and controls it. I greatly admire the superlative technique because it allows her to do whatever she wants and that, in turn, allows her to remain quite relevant. For her, New York is probably just show business. This is Art.

Oct. 25 2010 03:06 PM
Mary Jane Hodge from Long Island

Have always loved her voice and even its exccentricities. Watching her sing has always made me uncomfortable.

Oct. 25 2010 10:50 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Albums of the Week

The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.