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Cecilia Bartoli

Monday, September 25, 2017


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June 22

Out of the depths

parterre boxFor those who fall prey to the sin of Pride this week, penance may follow. Thus “Trove Thursday” appropriately provides a live broadcast of Mozart’s rarely performed cantata Davide Penitente by Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie with Sandrine Piau, Véronique Gens and Howard Crook. Although I adore nearly all of Mozart’s vocal compositions, I’ve always been less enamored of his choral works. I’d take Haydn’s masses over Mozart’s any day although I am very fond of his unfinished “Great” Mass in C, K.427 which includes the exquisite soprano aria “Et incarnatus est.” //www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsYHAS36pC8 Two years after its premiere in 1783, Mozart needed to fulfill a commission from the Wiener Tonkünstler-Sozietät so he recycled movements from the mass for Davide whose text is based on the Davidic Psalms. The composer did, however, add new long arias for the soprano and tenor, performed at the premiere by Caterina Cavalieri and Johann Valentin Adamberger, the first Konstanze and Belmonte in his Die Entführung aus dem Serail. I believe this may the only time Les Arts Florissants performed Davide although the group later recorded the “Great” Mass for Erato. (Sorry about the short drop-out during the final movement). An American, Crook made his career mostly in Europe where he was Christie’s go-to tenor for French baroque music until the “British Invasion” brought Paul Agnew and Mark Padmore. However, his finest performance in that repertoire may not be with Christie but with John Eliot Gardiner on his magnificent recording of Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus. The first time I heard Crook was during the magical 1989 tour of Lully’s Atys at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He didn’t sing the title role in the Harmonia Mundi recording but happily his marvelous Atys is preserved in a 1987 telecast of that superlative production. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLmUCFc5b5Y //www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6h9uaERvrg //www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TWyEFc78BE Gens shows up in two small parts in that Atys; she was just 22 at the time. She toured often to New York with Les Arts Florissants in the 90s but she hasn’t been heard here in over 20 years. Her career continues to flourish primarily in France where she just sang Halévy’s La Reine de Chypre in concert. I have a hard time imagining this cool and elegant soprano as Hanna Glawari in Die Lustige Witwe, a role she sings this fall at the Paris Opéra. The eternally youthful Piau, on the other hand, has been a slightly more frequent US visitor sounding nearly as fresh last year as Despina in Così fan Tutte as when she sang Charpentier with LAF in 1991 at BAM. Her Dalinda was reportedly a delight in Cecilia Bartoli‘s debut production of Ariodante earlier this month in Salzburg. Too bad though she’s never had a trill. Those wanting more Psalms after Davide, Lincoln Center has just announced that its White Light Festival this fall will feature performances of all 150 Psalms set by 150 different composers! Mozart: Davide Penitente Aix-en-Provence Festival July 1991 Broadcast Sandrine Piau Veronique Gens Howard Crook Les Arts Florissants Conductor William Christie To download Davide Penitente, just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. In addition, nearly 80 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts are available free from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

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September 1

Ha vuote le occhiaie – ma pure (e chi il crede?!)

As so often in the past, cher public, “La Cieca ci guarda – la Cieca ci vede!” Today, the New York Times offers the strongest suggestion yet that Cecilia Bartoli will bring her Norma to New York. You will no doubt recall that this event was first foreseen here in a blind item , and then reported last week.






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June 5

Intermezzo (a love story)

This week we dig deep into the mature works of Richard Strauss: his 1924 Intermezzo, labeled a “bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen.” The glorious and beloved Elisabeth Söderström tackles the fiendishly difficult role of Christine in a 1974 performance from Glyndebourne conducted by John Pritchard sung in English. Strauss himself wrote the libretto based on real events in his life. The story is a fluffy drawing room comedy about a shrewish wife’s jealousy over an affair by her husband, who happens to be a composer with the initials R.S., Robert Storch. It is eventually revealed that in a simple case of mistaken identity the damning correspondence was meant for another musician with the similar surname of Stroh. The opera ends with renewed vows of love by the couple. Lotte Lehmann, who created Christine, is reported to have congratulated Strauss’ notoriously bitchy wife, Pauline, on receiving such a gift, to which she replied, “I don’t give a damn.” Remembered mainly for its orchestral interludes, it is rarely performed, chalking up a mere 31 performances by Wiener Staatsoper between 1927 and 1963. Lehmann sang it 16 times, and in the post-war performances, all of which were given at Theater an der Wien, the role belonged to Hilde Zadek and Hanny Steffek It is in that smaller house where I had my only encounter with the opera in 2008. Soile Isokowski withdrew from the production in early rehearsals, and soon Regisseur Christof Loy walked out. On opening night, the theater’s director, Roland Geyer, stepped before the curtain to thank Carola Glaser for jumping in at short notice: the theater had been able to locate only two women in all of Europe who knew the role, and only one was available. Robert Storch was sung by Bo Skovhus. Kirill Petrenko presided over the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien. Söderström is one of those unforgettable singers who had a strange Met career: a debut in 1959 and a farewell to opera 40 years later, but with absences of 20 years and then another decade in the middle. She debuted as Mozart’s Susanna and was soon assigned Marguerite in Faust, Musetta, Adina, Sophie, Rosalinda, and the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, the last two of which were sung in English (until 1970, the Met gave the Prolog to Ariadne in English and the Oper auf Deutsch). Between 1964 and her return as the Marschallin on the Met’s 1983 annual spring tour, her voice and reputation grew and she established herself as one of Sweden’s greatest exports throughout the opera world. She became known as a Janá?ek specialist, and her Decca recordings as Jenufa, Kát’a, and Emily Marty under Charles Mackerras all won Gramophone Awards. Her first performances in the now-not-quite-so-new house at Lincoln Center were as Ellen Orford opposite Jon Vickers, many of which I attended. She also sang the Marschallin in the Rosenkavalier trio at the Met’s Centennial Gala with Frederica von Stade and Kathleen Battle. She was a member of that rare handful of singers who sang, in chronological order, Sophie, Octavian, and the Marschallin. She then repriesed Le nozze di Figaro, this time as the Contessa, brought her Marschallin to the house with Brigitte Fassbaender and Barbara Hendricks, and then disappeared again for a dozen years. In 1990, I nabbed a subscription for a vocal recital series at Alice Tully Hall to assure a ticket to hear sensational newcomer Cecilia Bartoli. Another recitalist – I can’t remember who – withdrew at short notice and Söderström jumped in. It was 12 May 1991, Mothers’ Day, and she ingenuously cobbled together a glorious program of songs and arias in a multitude of languages that all dealt with some aspect of motherhood. Shortly before her 72nd birthday, she rejoined the Met for her farewell to the stage: seven shows as the Countess in Pique Dame with Plácido Domingo and Galina Gorchakova. The final performance of the run was telecast and preserved for posterity. She died in Stockholm at the age of 82 in 2009. Post scriuptum: last Monday’s upload was derailed by an Internet outage, but I did manage to post the München Tannhäuser with Klaus Florian Vogt and Anja Harteros. You can catch it here: h

Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia Bartoli (June 4, 1966 in Rome) is an Italian mezzo-soprano opera singer and recitalist. She is best-known for her interpretation of the music of Mozart and Rossini, as well as for her performances of lesser-known Baroque and classical music. She is known for having the versatility to play both soprano and mezzo roles, and is sometimes considered a soprano with a low tessitura. Bartoli's coloratura skill has earned her the title the Queen of Agility.



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Cecilia Bartoli




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