Cecilia Bartoli


Schubert Club Performance: March 18, 1996

From the Schubert Club Archive:

The epithet “phenomenon” is bandied about lightly with superstars, but it fits Cecilia Bartoli, one of the world’s most celebrated classical artists. Born in Rome to two opera singers in 1966, she grew up surrounded by music. Her mother was her only teacher, and she helped her daughter find and develop her unique voice. Cecilia’s career was launched in 1987, when she sang “Una voce poco fa” from The Barber of Seville on an Italian TV talent show and was spotted by the great conductor Riccardo Muti:

Immediately, the young mezzo was engaged to sing Rosina on stage in Cologne and Zurich. It became one of her signature roles, and Rossini became her special composer.

But Bartoli has always been equally captivating in solo recitals. This 1992 film from Venice’s Teatro la Fenice shows the singer’s artistry already fully formed at the age of 26: perfect technique and diction, rich timbre, supple phrasing, plus a quick-witted, charismatic stage presence. She’s clearly having a love affair with the music and her audience:

Beginning in 1991 when they performed together in London, Bartoli began a close musical partnership with pianist András Schiff. It led to a best-selling recording of Italian songs by Schubert, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. The two artists performed songs by those composers, along with Rossini (of course), in their 1996 Schubert Club recital in St. Paul:

1996 was also the year of Bartoli’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera, and the following season she sang another of her key roles there, Rossini’s Cinderella:

Handel operas are another Bartoli specialty. In 2009 she recorded “Ombra mai fu” with Giovanni Antonini’s brilliant period ensemble Il Giardino Armonico for an album of arias written for famous castratos. The selections were fancifully filmed (with the recordings dubbed in) for a DVD release:

Bartoli has also revelled in Mozart’s music. Here’s a snippet from The Magic Flute in her 1999 duo recital at Glyndebourne with Bryn Terfel:

It’s hard to believe that HER career began almost half a century ago. She’s now also active as an impresario and producer, and remains a tireless explorer of lesser-known repertoire by legendary singers from centuries past. Approaching 60, Cecilia Bartoli is still in her prime – a “diva” (= goddess) in the best sense of the word. As late as 2019, she made her phenomenal debut at Naples’s fabled Teatro di San Carlo:

Artist note by Richard Evidon


Cover of the program from Bartoli’s 1996 performance with pianist András Schiff

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Program from Bartoli’s 1996 concert

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Signed photo from 1996

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Signed photo, not dated (but likely from 1996)

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