Friday, October 07, 2005

Cecilia in Berkeley

A Cecilia Bartoli concert is like nothing else on earth.

On Thursday night on the Cal Performances series in Berkeley she was breathtakingly gorgeous in an emerald gown with a long train, accessorized with her jeweled concert Rolex. Cecilia does not know how many Rolexes she owns. She is wearing her long hair up in a pony tail these days.

And a Cecilia Bartoli concert in Berkeley, California, is like nowhere else. The audience roars like at a football game, and does not ever want to go home. After three encores--1 Bononcini, 1 Handel and 1 Scarlatti--she made a small speech about next time, and still they yelled. She had a cold and wanted to stop. Then she came out and waved, and we all waved back. Then she was gone.

This is the "Opera proibita" tour, and most of the arias were from that album. Handel's "Chiudi chiudi" is not on the recording. I have already reviewed the album.

I had read that she conducts the orchestra (La Scintilla from Zurich) while she sings. I had read that she did this even when there was a conductor present. They/she has done the sensible thing and disposed of the conductor altogether. I thought this worked most but not all of the time. In at least one aria the orchestra did not begin together.

She likes this. She likes moving her body with the music, and it becomes an element of her total immersion in the performance. This particular music, this glorious, exciting music, all of it from 1700-1710, requires a lot of rhythmic cohesion and coordination. Besides the beginnings of the sections, they most need conducting when Cecilia is singing to make sure the tempo is correct and synchronized with her very precise singing.

So there she stands in her vivid green dress with the musicians all around her, moving her arms and shoulders to show what she wants, sometimes sending her hand out to the side. It's like nothing else.

Some of us have been complaining that she doesn't do song recitals, or at least new programs for song recitals, any more. Last time in Berkeley she did a song recital, but it was all old material. This is because we love her song recitals. But what is important is how much she loves it. A Cecilia Bartoli concert is like no other because of the engulfing, sometimes overwhelming love that flows out in her singing. Those of us who love her would never wish to inhibit this flow--we want that she loves it this much.

Everything is subsumed in the musical-emotional interpretation. She does whatever she needs to do to make this music. She enters into the music so deeply that sometimes, "Lascia la spina" e.g., it takes her a few minutes to come back out of it.

And she sings like no one else on earth. People around me were crying at times. Handel's "Come nembo" which ended the first half was wildly ornamented in the da capo. I have been told that her ornaments can vary from one performance to another. They varied radically from the recording.

My son puts LOL into his emails, and we were speculating what this might mean. When Herb Caen wrote it, it stood for Little Old Lady, but I'm not prepared for that to be the meaning. Laughing Out Loud was suggested.

This is also a Cecilia Bartoli only phenomenon. The angel's aria "Open, o gates of hell" from Handel's La Resurrezione is so wildly ornamented, with the instruments ornamenting in parallel with Cecilia, with all the rhythmic drive of a freight train going through your living room, it is LOL, Laughing Out Loud joyful.


Paul said...

When I renewed my interest in opera some years ago, one era I avoided like the plague was the baroque. I sang Handel as a bass chorister dozens of times, and that sort of music bored me. I used to joke that any libretto for a Handel opera was about four pages long, what with dozens of nots per syllable and all the repeats. Then things changed. First I bought Fleming's CD of Handel arias. Then yesterday I got Bartoli's "Opera Proibita," mostly because I read your review of it. They way they sing baroque opera is NOT boring. Now I sort of regret not having seen Stephanie Blythe in "Julio Cesare" last year at Opera Colorado, even though the production itself got panned -- it was one of those "updates" you've mentioned; in this case Caesar made his grand entrance on a Mark IV tank.

Dr.B said...

One of my earliest blogs was the entry on the "Cecilia Bartoli Effect". Cecilia specializes in anti-boredom. You can't help asking yourself "why was this never so interesting before?"