Hello and welcome to another Singer Sunday! Today we are looking at the wonderful, the talented, the woman-who-makes-slightly-weird-faces-when-she-sings, Cecilia Bartoli!!
Born in Rome, Italy, this coloratura mezzo-soprano is quite possibly the most talented opera singer alive today. Bold statement I know... but listening to her vocal agility (ability to move between notes very quickly) and her depth of range, I find it difficult to come to any other conclusion. She is one of the most versatile singers, known for being capable of not only singing both mezzo-soprano and soprano roles, but singing them extremely well!
As a young Italian, Cecilia was raised by her parents who were both professional singers. They, of course, gave Cecilia her first music lessons. Cecilia’s mother, Silvana Bazzoni, is famously known for starting Cecilia’s musical journey. People were so stunned by Cecilia’s talent, they thought, who is her mother?? She later studied at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
Her career started early in her childhood, playing small children’s roles and then making her professional operatic debut at the very young age of 21. She has had an international career, and of course has made many appearances at the Metropolitan Opera. She is most well-known for singing Bellini, Mozart, but especially Rosinni. In recent years she has also done great work with Baroque roles. Here are some examples of her incredible skill at coloratura.
Agitata da due venti by Vivaldi Watch how still she stays when she sings quickly!
Son Qual Nave by Riccardo Broschi Yes this video is terrible quality... BUT! Listen to her sing without breathing for 25 seconds straight! It’s right at the beginning, you can’t miss it!
Non più mesta by Rosinni from La Cenorentola (Cinderella) This is one of the most famous arias for a mezzo-soprano. And most sopranos wish they could sing this!
Una voce poco fa by Rosinni from Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) This is a great video because you can follow along with the music as she sings. You will be able to see that she sometimes adds her own ornamentation to the music, a very common practice. Also important to note in this production she was only 22!
Canzonetta spagnuola by Rosinni I became addicted to this song very quickly. It starts off slowly, you can hear the tension building. And it just gets faster... and faster... and faster!! Enjoy!
Now for her cross-over roles into what I call Soprano-land!
Come scoglio by Mozart from Così fan tutte (Thus do they all, or The School for Lovers) It was a really big deal when Cecilia sang this role, because as far as I am aware she is the first singer to perform all three women’s roles in this opera. There is Despina (soubrette soprano role), the maid; Fiordiligi (dramatic soprano role), Dorabella’s sister and Lady from Ferrara; and Dorabella (mezzo-soprano role), Fiordiligi’s sister and Lady of Ferrara. It is common to have sung two of these three roles but definitely not all three! This is one of Fiordiligi’s arias. The vocal range needed to sing this aria is incredible. Not only does the soprano, or in this case mezzo, have to sing a high C, but she also sings below middle C. Cecilia has the ability to sing in both registers of her voice with intense power and clarity, a trait not common for mezzos or sopranos!
Piangerò la sorte mia by Händel from Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) Another soprano role, now moving to the Baroque period, you may need a box of Kleenex listening to this next one. Cleopatra has just been ordered to prison by her own brother for schemeing with Caesar. She is contemplating her fate and how when she is dead she will come back to haunt her brother. You never see her face in this, and it is unbelievably powerful. Without a doubt one of my top favourite arias ever!
And now to end it all, one of my favourite duets from Die Zauberflöte by Mozart, here is Cecilia Bartoli and baritone Bryn Terfel singing Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena. Here Papageno has finally found his Papagena and they sing about all the little Papagenos and Papagenas they’re going to have!
I hope you have enjoyed this intro to Cecilia Bartoli! She is one of the most incredible singers I’ve ever come across. I encourage you to find more of her recordings and listen to as much as possible! And as always, see you next month for another Singer Sunday!!