Cecilia Bartoli and Lang Lang (Recital)

Cecilia Bartoli and Lang Lang (Recital)
Reviewer's rating

One must travel to Europe to hear her.

Bartoli sang the shepherd boy in Tosca aged nine. She sang Rosina (Barber of Seville) aged 19 in Rome. She catapulted to fame in her 20s.  57-year-old Bartoli constantly raises the bar higher and higher; nobody can catch up. Her voice is rich throughout the range. Her vocal agility (coloratura) is second to none. She is one of rare singers who does not have a passaggio – (the awkward part of the voice linking mid to high register) Her voice flows seamlessly from one register to the next. Baroque and bel canto repertoires are her speciality. She has extraordinary stage presence.

Bartoli has been artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun festival since 2012. She created her own orchestra in 2016. She is now the first female artistic director of Monte Carlo.

This Gala Concert promised a magical evening. Bartoli met virtuoso pianist Lang-Lang in 2008 when they discovered a mutual love for seeking new musical colours and nuance. Such a recital featuring two great artists is a rarity.

The first half of the programme is devoted to ‘arie antiche’. Bartoli starts with two arie antiche accompanied by a lute, creating a very different sound.

These arie antiche are well-known. Bartoli’s individual interpretation, sounds like you are hearing these for the first time. She demonstrates phenomenal breath control for ‘già il sole dal Gange’ (Scarlatti). ‘Selve amiche’ (Caldara) is unusually slow but with her breath control, delicate tender pianissimi she brings incredible depth of feeling to the song.  Her feminine flirtatiousness for ‘se tu m’ami’ (Parisotti) is gorgeous.  Even the first word of ‘Caro mio ben’ (Giordani) – ‘caro’, Bartoli sings with such feeling that the first three words are a love song. ‘Chi vuol la zingarella’ (Paisello) is a highlight as here Bartoli shows off her spectacular coloratura. The first half ends with ‘Lascia la spina’ (Handel) where again Bartoli displays phenomenal artistry with her range of expression and extraordinary pianissimi sung on a ‘fil di voce’ (thread).

The second half continues, without an interval, with seven Rossini songs. Bartoli’s face lights up animatedly for these, all sung with intense expression, fun, and intelligence. ‘La Passegiata’ Bartoli imitates birdsong. ‘L’Orpheline du Tyrol’ Bartoli brings out the tragedy of a young orphan. The final song ‘en medio a mis colores’ (Spanish song) – is a party piece. Bartoli apparently once wanted to be a flamenco dancer, so we have the thrills of castanets and flamenco which bring the house down.

Bellini’s arietta ‘vaga luna’ follows. Bellini is a complete contrast from Rossini. It needs long legato bel canto lines which is another Bartoli speciality. ‘Ti voglio tanto bene’ (De Curtis) has so much exquisite outpouring of love and pianissimi, it is almost schmaltzy, but not quite. The concert ends with Rossini’s ‘La Danza’ which self-accompanying with a tambourine, Bartoli sings breathtakingly fast. This ends the concert to tumultuous applause.

Both artists leave the stage. Lang Lang returns and plays Chopin. Bartoli returns to sing ‘Voi che sapete’ (Mozart). Bartoli is 57, yet she perfectly physically and vocally captures the yearnings of adolescent Cherubino. I have never heard this better sung. A further encore Carmen’s ‘près des remparts’ (Bizet) again Bartoli thrills in the teasing, timing and seductive explosion of the aria.  Bartoli sings her final encore, the well-known Santa Lucia, putting such nuance and expression into it, it is as if we have never heard it before.

Everyone is on their feet. The great Bartoli finally leaves the stage. She has sung for one hour 45 minutes without a break. I have been to hundreds of recitals. I have never witnessed that before.

Bartoli brings intelligence, charm, warmth, charisma, passion, subtlety, character, extraordinary breath control and phenomenal technique to her glorious voice.  Anything she sings is worth the price of the journey and the ticket. We still have the opportunity to hear this magnificent singer who brings a touch of magic wherever she goes.



23rd March 2024

Mezzo-Soprano Cecilia Bartoli

Piano Lang Lang

Photo Credit Marco Borelli

1 hour 45 with encores. No interval.