Opera Daily 🎶 — Cecilia Bartoli, Vivaldi, Divas, The Beauty of Hidden Gifts
"The voice is an instrument that must take time to develop. It's like a good red wine. Give it time."
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the patron saint of music is named Cecilia.
As the daughter of two opera singers, you could say that Cecilia Bartoli was born to sing. But she wanted to be a flamenco dancer, not an opera singer.
When she was fifteen, her mother said: “Cecilia, let’s see if you have a voice.” After some lessons with her mother (who soon became her voice teacher), there was no denying that she had a gift.
When she was 19 years old, she appeared on an Italian talent show called Fantastico. “I’m so glad she’s a mezzo-soprano," said soprano Katia Ricciarelli who was in the audience when Bartoli performed “Una voce poco fa”, an aria from Rossini’s opera Il barbiere di Siviglia. Bartoli didn’t win the talent show that night, but there was no denying were she was headed. 🚀
Bartoli believes in God-given talent. She also believes that the work doesn’t stop there. Even though she had been given a gift, she refers to her voice resembling “a rough stone” when it was discovered. It needed to be shaped through a strong technique and discipline to become what it was meant to be.
Hearing Bartoli’s story got me thinking.
People are walking around with gifts inside them every day, but they have no idea they’ve been given these gifts. What about all gifts that you’ve been given? How will you discover them? How will we put them to work?
The thought of people walking around the world every day with all these hidden gifts makes me smile. It even caused me to look at some folks on a walk yesterday a little differently, thinking, I wonder what gifts they are hiding?
Bartoli reminds us of the true definition of a diva through her words and actions.
When asked about what a “diva” means to her, she struggles to answer, given the negative connotations of the phrase in today’s opera world.
Instead, she refers to one of her heroes Maria Malibran.
“Malibran was an amazing singer, composer, muse to so many. So many talents in one person. This woman was so full of love, courage, and passion. She is a goddess. She is a diva.”
While Malibran is mainly remembered for her fiery operatic performances, she was one of the best-known opera singers of the 19th century and a composer. She died at just 28 years old after falling off her horse, but her fame as singer, composer, and painter was undeniable by the time she passed.
Bartoli’s Barcelona concert in 2008 at Palau de la Música Catalana was dedicated to Malibran and the goldmine of music associated with this star of the Romantic era.
🎧 Listening Example (3 minute listen): Rossini’s La Cenerentola, "Non più mesta" Cecilia Bartoli with the Orchestra La Scintilla, Recorded at the Palau de la Música Catalana (Barcelona, Spain) in 2008
Instead of seeking to get even with her sisters who have hurt her, Angelina (Cinderella’s birth name), in this aria, forgives them. She sings that her life has been transformed by love and that she forgives all who wronged her before and wants only to embrace them.
Bartoli believes that it is the responsibility of musicians to bring music alive. That music is not meant to be left on shelves — it’s meant to be discovered.
You could say she is a builder of bridges between centuries. Vivaldi is known for his instrumental music not his vocal music. But Bartoli took it upon herself to bring that music to us, studied it intensely, and brought it to life.
Below is a full-length concert with Bartoli from the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris. It features a program of rare arias from Vivaldi's operas with Giovanni Antonini conducting Il Giardino Armonico (an Italian ensemble specializing in Baroque music played on period instruments).
You can watch the full concert here. [**HIGHLY RECOMMEND**]
🎧 Listening Example (6 minute listen): Cecilia Bartoli sings “Agitata da due venti” from the opera Griselda by Antonio Vivaldi, Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris, Giovanni Antonini conducting Il Giardino Armonico
Cecilia has been artistic director of the Salzburg Festival since 2012 while still performing at the festival each season. Handel’s Giulio Cesare inaugurated Cecilia Bartoli’s first season as Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival.
Below is a clip from Bartoli in Salzburg singing one of Cleopatra’s aria’s, “Da tempesto il legno infranto” from Act 3 of the Italian opera Giulio Cesare by George Frideric Handel
Bartoli was named the Artistic Director of Opéra de Monte-Carlo, which she will start in January 2023.
Jean-Louis Grinda, the current director of Opéra de Monte-Carlo, says he’s convinced that artists should run opera houses. That artists understand all that’s at stake in theaters, and artists know how to take these risks.
What does Bartoli think about the new role? She hopes to start this new position “with a lot of energy and love” because, as she says, “in the end that’s what it’s all about”.
I’ve always been a fan of Bartoli, the musician and Bartoli, the person. She teaches us how to rejoice in the beauty of life.
She loves to sing. She smiles with her eyes. She has a sense of humor in addition to a magnificent voice. Her singing goes straight to your heart.
Whether you feel joy every day or you haven't felt it in a while, after listening to Cecilia, I hope you had a chance to reconnect with that feeling today.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
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