I don’t like to write about Cecilia Bartoli—my emotions get the better of me—but Sarah has pointed out that she actually prefers the French album, and I feel compelled to respond.
Over the course of her career Cecilia has done basically…
• Performances of complete operas/opera recordings—Mozart, Rossini, Haydn, Handel
• Other recordings of complete works—Rossini, Pergolesi, Mozart, Faure.
• Opera recitals/opera aria recordings—two of Rossini, two of Mozart, Vivaldi, Gluck, Salieri and now the Handel/Scarlatti/Caldara.
• Miscellaneous other stuff—songs on choral albums, recital with Bryn.
• Song recitals/song recital recordings—Parisotti collection "Se tu m'ami", Rossini, French "Chant d'amour", German "The impatient lover", and "Italian Songbook."
The last song recording was the Italian Songbook in 1997 with James Levine. Then in 1999 came the Vivaldi album, her biggest seller to date.
For me to judge Cecilia’s singing is easy—does my heart do its dance? It’s not an intellectual decision, but I can look back at it and try to make sense of my emotions.
People like Vivaldi for some reason. For me he’s too simple. I’m a Bach person. What can I say? That part of Cecilia’s career is at once the most successful and for me the least moving. I know most of the other fans don’t share my opinions. I like the current album very much because it is successfully engaging my emotions. It’s thrilling.
I, too, love her song recitals best. The French album, both for language and for expression, is perfect. But how miraculous is her German recording! How is a lieder recital entirely in Italian even possible? But there it is, and it’s fantastic. The Rossini recital with Giovanna D’arco is heart-stopping.
Then there came the Italian Songbook, for me her weakest recording. The whole thing is simply not sung well. Perhaps the collaboration with Levine was not successful. Or perhaps there is some unknown cause. It was for me a terrible disappointment because I heard the Bellini songs in Escondido and thought them gorgeous. Somehow the recording went terribly wrong. No artist ever corrects an unsuccessful recording, so we will never hear how well she can sing these.
Some years back she was contracted to record Spanish songs with Alicia della Rocha, an event which never occurred.
Cecilia’s present path is guided, I believe, by success. She would like to imitate the success of the Vivaldi album. In this special most recent case there is a wish to perform music associated with her city—Roma, reina del mondo. My favorite quote from Cecilia is, “The journey of the voice starts with the heart.” Our hearts engage because hers does. For whatever reason, she is now deeply involved in her archeological project and seems to have forgotten all about songs.