Thursday, February 24, 2011

REVIEW: Cecilia Bartoli - Sacrificium

Cultural Centre Concert Hall, Thursday February 24

It was another wonderful night from the amazing Cecilia Bartoli. This time, she dedicated the whole evening singing arias from her album Sacrificium, which won a Grammy a week and half ago in the category “Best Classical Vocal Performance”.

In Sacrificium, Cecilia Bartoli explores the astonishing world of the ‘castrati’. In her words, “The age of the castratos was one of the most dazzling and remarkable in European music history. Seldom have there ever been such a complete fusion of sensuousness and splendor, form and content, poetry and music, and, above all, such a perfection of vocal virtuosity, as was achieved in the glory days of the Baroque era. The legendary art of the castratos continues to exert its fascination even today, and despite the great human sacrifice it exacted, a new assessment of this extraordinary period is surely justified.”

The album features almost entirely of world-premiere recordings; and highly likely that these arias also made their Asian-premiere performance last night. Accompanying Bartoli in the album is the Il Giardino Armonico (Italian early music ensemble) led by Giovanni Antonini. Last night however, the virtuoso pianist Sergio Ciomei not only accompanied Bartoli but also played a few solo pieces. Ciomei’s Scarlatti pieces were divine; he imbued them with his own character that made them sounding fresh and unexpected. While Ciomei’s piano was at its best, I can’t help but yearn for the baroque ensemble sound I found in the album. The piano worked so well with the 19th century Italian and French songs (February 22 concert) that it enhanced and gave a sense of intimacy to the whole program. In contrast, the piano almost sounded lagging behind the finery and grandeur of the singing in Sacrficium.

Before the start of the concert, there was an announcement that Bartoli was having a cold (memories of The MET came flooding back), BUT she will perform. To be honest, I didn’t hear any difference between the two nights that I have heard her. In both nights, her voice was gorgeous and her singing was a not a bit less stunning. What was absolutely fascinating with Sacrificium is how Bartoli tried to present herself less womanly (more castrato-like). While she wore a red gown in the previous concert; this time, she stepped onto the stage wearing black knee high boots, black tight trousers, white raffled shirts, black vest, black cape and a black feather hat. Instead of a curtsey, she bowed after each round of applause. I love the way how she made the concert so theatrical. Every time she came out after a break, she would be wearing one less piece of clothing… first it was the hat, then the cape, then the vest, then suddenly instead of shedding her boots or pants or shirt (cough), she came in wearing a glamorous hybrid gown/pants attire, then she worked her way up again by adding high standing feather collars… UTTERLY CHARMING!

Now, I can’t wait to see what will be the festival opening program next year… especially since the Hong Kong Arts Festival will be celebrating its 40th year!

Cecilia Bartoli
Sergio Ciomei (piano)


Domenico Scarlatti
Sonata in E, K380 (Instrumental Piece): Andante

Nicolò Porpora
Come nave
(aria of Siface from Siface)

Riccardo Broschi
Chi non sente al mio dolore (aria of Epitide from Merope)

George Frideric Handel
Passacaglia in G minor and Sarabande in D minor (Instrumental Piece)
Lascia la spina (aria of Piacere from Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno)

Domenico Scarlatti
Sonata in C, K159 (Instrumental Piece)

Leonardo Vinci
Cervo in bosco (aria of Climaco from Medo)

Leonardo Leo
Qual farfalla (aria of Decio from Zenobia in Palmira)

Francesco Araia
Cadrò, ma qual si mira (aria of Demetrio from Berenice)

Nicolò Porpora
Usignolo sventurato (aria of Siface from Siface)

George Frideric Handel
Scherza in mar la navicella (from Lotario)

Leonardo Leo
Allegretto in G minor (Instrumental Piece)

Benedetto Marcello
Allegro in G (Instrumental Piece)

Antonio Caldara
Quel buon pastor (aria of Abel from La morte d’Abel)

Domenico Scarlatti
Sonata in B, K262 (Instrumental Piece): Vivo

Leonardo Vinci
Quanto invidio la sorte...Chi vive amante
(Recitative and aria of Erissena from Alessandro nelle Indie)

Nicolò Porpora
Nobil onda (aria of Adelaide from Adelaide)

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At January 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM , Blogger Sheila said...

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