Cecilia Bartoli with Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Kila Packett16 October 2002
Cecilia Bartoli with Orchestra of the Age of EnlightenmentCity: New York
Venue: Carnegie Hall
You have already sent my soul
To a place far worse than hell This was a sure crowd-pleaser full of impossible runs, trills, and octave jumping scales. Ms. Bartoli displayed a fiery passion for her music. She nodded her head, contorted her face, batted her eyelashes, rolled her eyes, and clutched her fingers, demonstrating a frantic, yet playful personality. Her gaze was attentive, intense and at the same time fixed on the meaning of her words. She was obviously in love with the music around her played brilliantly by the OAE. This was a collaboration of the finest degree and precision. I found myself bouncing to this Baroque-like disco, which, in its day, was the most popular music of its time. Every trill, every note, and the ascension of every musical chord was in place -- a meticulously planned journey traveled via the innate coordination that each musician on that stage possessed. Then there was the thrill of applause from the audience -- a fantastic roar of hands clapping along with faint shouts. It was as if I was rafting down Niagara Falls. After her first set of songs Ms. Bartoli had already won a standing ovation. My favorite piece of the night was "Ombra mai Fu" from Il Xerxe (1694) by Giovanni Bononcini. Not that the other pieces were unremarkable, but I was particularly taken aback by the very sweet and smooth rhythm of this aria. While singing the words: Never was there shade of a plant
More gentle and loving than you! Ms. Bartoli displayed a deep range, impeccably involved in and devoted to the meaning of each word. There was no great philosophy behind these words -- only a solid conviction of phrase and feeling -- but as most love songs do, this song sounded great in Italian. After all, Ms. Bartoli specializes in stock characters that have nothing more to sing about except love and ships dashing against rocks. One could tell that she too was captivated by the pulsating beat of the OAE as her warm mezzo voice clung to the audience like a soft velvet blanket. Her interpretations of two Italian arias by Christoph Willibald Gluck (most impressively, "Se mai senti spirati sul volto" from La clemenza di Tito (c. 1752)) were finely tuned and carried a weighty sound of tone and color. Amazingly, she hit high notes in these pieces that displayed more of a bel canto range, a feat to applaud no matter how much vocal fatigue can be traced. (That being said, Cecilia showed only mild signs of fatigue early on in the evening, but not in the second half of the concert. Believe me, singing is hard, and the higher the notes the more stressful it is on the vocal chords.) Although Gluck claimed to write "music in a style completely different and never before heard", these pieces sounded very similar to the rest of the repertoire Ms. Bartoli brought to Carnegie that evening. If she were to be criticized at all it would be for the small range of musical genres she sang. One can only take Baroque music so far (it's rather repetitive and set in the major chords), but as an audience member who rarely has the opportunity to hear those pieces sung live I could have listened to Baroque music by this virtuoso for many weeks to come. I can forgive Ms. Bartoli for bringing us the comfortable range of these pieces because, quite frankly, I haven't heard anyone else do them better. She is probably best known for her interpretations of Rossini and Donizetti, but will Ms. Bartoli explore the different ranges of 20th Century music? Who cares? There are plenty of vocalists to do just that. Ms. Bartoli's animated energy kept the audience enchanted throughout the night. Among other impressive pieces, Riccardo Broschi's "Son qual nave ch'agitata" from Artaserse (1734) was particularly notable. In this piece, Ms. Bartoli showed off her incredible breath control by holding a note for what seemed like 20 seconds. Broschi's work has built trademarks in opera such as trills, rapid repeated notes, cascading scales, and messa di voce (a swell and diminuendo on a held note), all of which Cecilia Bartoli conquered with astounding appeal. The audience leapt to their feet at the end of the program, many shouting "Bravo!" at the top of their lungs. Bartoli came back for three wonderful encores, but this was still not enough for all the opera lovers in the audience. Even after almost two and a half hours the audience was still insatiable to hear more. Every bit of the audience's energy emanated to show love and appreciation for Baroque music and a classic diva.
cecilia bartoli with orchestra of the age of enlightenment cecilia bartoli with orchestra of the age of enlightenment