Who is the highest selling classical artist in the world with over 13 million albums sold?
Who regularly graces the stages of the most prestigious venues in the world, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Salzburg Festival and the Zurich Opera House?
Who has won countless awards including;
4 GRAMMYs (USA)
9 ECHOs and 1 BAMBI (Germany)
2 BRITs (UK)
Victoire de la musique (France)?
She is Cecilia Bartoli.
And she’s never performed down under so, needless to say, this is rather a big deal for Aussies.
Oh, and to put that many millions of albums into perspective, this is about the same number of albums that George Michael’s Faith, Bon Jovi’s Cross Road, Madonna’s Like A Virgin, Janet Jackson’s janet., Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me and Oasis’ (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? each sold. Not bad huh?
The stunning 44 year old came to prominence in the opera scene in her early 20′s, which is very unusual in a profession where vocal maturity is typically not achieved until a singer reaches their 30′s.
At the heart of Cecilia Bartoli’s remarkable concerts are romantic Italian songs – classical songs that tell of Mediterranean passion and cheeriness as well as “dolce vita” and “amore” under the Italian sun.
Other reasons why Ceclia is fabulous and fans adore her are;
* As well as being technically brilliant, on stage she’s lively, fun, joyful and vivacious so her concerts are extremely feel good
* Her vocal range is pretty huge – her voice flits between a soprano (very high) to a mezzo-soprano (a lower soprano) AND she’s a coloratura (she has a super agile voice that trills and runs and jumps all over the place like a brook of bubbling water trickling quickly over smooth stones)
So what type of songs does she sing?
As the 18th century turned into the 19th, composers like Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini – the pop music songwriters of the day – wrote pretty, romantic songs for their operas. Again, for some perspective, around this same time period in the rest of the world;
* Captain Cook had recently discovered Australia
* The French Revolution was in full swing
* Spanish settlers founded Los Angeles and Thomas Jefferson became the US President
Cecilia brings the songs written by these opera composers to life. Some pieces are forgotten gems and others are all-time favourites but to all she gives her unparalleled artistic dedication. Her keen and passionate interest in uncovering buried musical jewels has also led to her creating best-selling albums based on the music of Vivaldi and SalieriÃ‚Â and brought forgotten stars like Maria Malibran back to the public’s attention.
Ever the evangelist for this music, her concerts regularly include these remarkable discoveries, with Sacrificium, released in 2009, recreating the story of the castrati in all its glamour, beauty and cruelty.
A castrato (Italian, plural: castrati) is a man with a singing voice equivalent to that of a soprano or mezzo-soprano voice produced either by castration of the singer before puberty or one who, because of an hormonal condition, never reaches sexual maturity.
Castration before puberty (or in its early stages) prevented a boy’s larynx from being transformed by the normal physiological events of puberty. You’ll have to google to find out how they castrated in those times, I’m refraining from explaining here as it brings tears to my eyes and makes me wince at the very thought. As a result, the vocal range of prepubescence was generally retained, and the voice developed into adulthood in a unique way. Prepubescent castration for this purpose diminished greatly in the late 18th century (phew!) and was made illegal in Italy in 1870.
On top of this, as the castrato’s body grew, his lack of testosterone meant that his bone-joints didn’t harden as they usually would, so the limbs of the castrati often grew unusually long, as did the bones of their ribs. This, combined with intensive training, gave them unrivalled lung-power and breath capacity. Operating through small, child-sized vocal cords, their voices were also extraordinarily flexible, and quite different from the equivalent adult female voice and very different to an uncastrated adult male. Listening to the only surviving recordings of a castrato, you can hear that the lower part of the voice sounds like a ‘super-high’ tenor (high male voice), with a more falsetto-like upper register above that.
Cruel as it was, “The age of the castrati” inspired some of the most virtuosic repertoire ever written for the human voice; elaborate coloratura showpieces and beautiful slow arias, written for the extraordinary vocal abilities of the leading castrati of the day. Cecilia’s album Sacrificium focuses on the songs that came from the Neapolitan school, which produced the most famous superstar castrati including Farinelli and Caffarelli and many of the songs that Cecilia chose have never been recorded previously.
Her latest album, Sospiri, is in stark contrast and includes a new recording of “Una voce poco fa” from Rossini’s opera Barber of Seville the dazzling aria of young love, and the role (Rosina) in which Cecilia Bartoli first shot to international stardom.
Sospiri showcases the irresistibly sensual side of Cecilia Bartoli’s art. Not just for classical music fans, this album is perfect as “mood” or lifestyle compilation, perfect for dinner parties, meditation or yoga or relaxing with a book, a wine or a cup of tea. The quieter arias showcase Cecilia’s vocal beauty, sensuality and emotion. Although she’s loved the world over for vocal fireworks and spectacular coloratura, she is also adored for her spine-tingling pianissimi (soft notes) and her ability to shape endless, velvety phrases.
“A Cecilia Bartoli concert is a package deal. You get a big personality, an extrovert show, a remarkable voice – She packs a hall and they adore her” The Guardian, London
“Cecilia is a true star. It is impossible to resist her bravado, and the audience duly went wild.” The Daily Telegraph, London
“The audience went bananas at the end, and justly so. . . Bartoli remains one of the few opera stars today who can light up the stage with her every appearance.” The Times, London
In the world of opera and classical music, Cecilia Bartoli exists in a league of her own.
Come and see what opera and classical music fans and critics have known for over 20 years and don’t miss her performing near you.
AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES: CECILIA BARTOLI – 2011
Wed 2nd March – Perth Concert Hall www.bocsticketing.com.au
Sun 6th March – Adelaide Festival Centre http://www.bass.net.au/
Wed 9th March – Melbourne Town Hall http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/
Sun 13th March – Sydney Opera House http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/
Tues 15th March – Sydney Opera House http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/
Fri 18th March – QPAC Brisbane http://www.qpac.com.au/