Wednesday, February 23, 2011

REVIEW: Cecilia Bartoli - Romantic Songs from 19th Century Italy and France

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Tuesday February 22

The first time I heard of Cecilia Bartoli was also the first time I saw her perform live, it was also my first time to visit The Metropolitan Opera in New York. It was in Cesare Levi’s Magritte-inspired production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola in 1997. I remember that right before the opera started, somebody went onto the stage and I heard everybody moaned. I didn’t know what was happening until the guy started to talk about Bartoli is not feeling well, BUT she will still perform… then there was a unison sigh and spontaneous applause.



During the performance, I do remember thinking her coloratura was spectacular and attributed her breathy tone to her not feeling well. Beyond the voice, her performance was sincere, animated and jolly. Since then, I have bought every single CD I can find with her in it. As for the breathy tone, feeling well or not, it is there and I don’t care.

Another opportunity to see her perform live came in 2003 when she released her Salieri album. I flew to Paris and arrived on the day of the concert. When I went to pick up my internet booked tickets at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, I was informed that the concert was cancelled. At that moment, the tiredness from the flight and the shock was too much that I literally needed to seat down… After 30 minutes of total devastation, I went to Opera Garnier to see Paris Opera Ballet in a Balanchine program while my mind and heart was still wishing it was Bartoli on the stage… singing and not dancing of course.


The whole rational for such a long introduction is to get across that I am a frustrated star-struck fan and my expectations are high. As for Hong Kong Arts Festival’s official opening performance with Cecillia Bartoli singing Romantic Songs from 19th Century Italy and France, it was an unqualified success!

The program was varied and generous. In a lot of recitals and recordings, these type of songs would have been a mere casual vocal exercise, usually rendered plainly while the listeners hang their appreciation on the melody. Not with Bartoli, each song was explored and mined; and each word was sculpted and painted. She presented the carefully crafted program with vocal finery that expose the true character of the songs and reveal little stories, that no matter how simple, seems suddenly relevant.

In this live performance with Sergio Ciomei matching Bartoli in temperament, one gets that extra dimension of having a glimpse of her personality; and hers is endearing and genuine. At the end of the concert, she gave in to 3 encores of which Xavier Montsalvatge’s Canción de cuna para dormir a un negrito is my favorite. Her final encore was Handel’s Lasica la spina cogli la rosa. Needless to say, it was gorgeous, so gorgeous that I felt that it was the perfect goodbye and hope that she wouldn’t do another encore… and she didn’t… perfect!

_____
Cecilia Bartoli
Romantic Songs from 19th Century Italy and France
Sergio Ciomei (piano)

Programme:

Gioacchino Rossini
Or che di fiori adorno
Beltà crudele
Anzoleta dopo la regata (From La regata veneziana)


Vincenzo Bellini
L'abbandono
Il fervido desiderio
Vaga luna, che inargenti
La farfalletta
Dolente immagine di Fille mia
Malinconia, Ninfa gentile
Ma rendi pur contento


Gioacchino Rossini
Canzonetta spagnuola
L'esule
La danza


Gaetano Donizetti
Il barcaiuolo
Amore e morte
Me voglio fà ‘na casa


Gioacchino Rossini
L'Orpheline du Tyrol
La grande coquette

Pauline Viardot
Havanaise
Haï luli

Georges Bizet
Tarentelle
La coccinelle


Manuel García
Yo que soy contrabandista (From El poeta calculista)

Maria Malibran
Rataplan

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