For more than two decades, Cecilia Bartoli has undeniably been one of the leading artists in the field of classical music. All over the world, her new operatic roles, her concert programs and recording projects – in exclusivity with Decca – are expected with great eagerness and curiosity. The exceptional amount of 8 million CDs sold, more than 100 weeks ranking in the international pop charts, numerous Golden Discs, four Grammys® (USA), nine Echos and a Bambi (Germany), two Classical Brit Awards (UK), the Victoire de la musique (France) and many other prestigious awards reflect the immense success of for example Opera proibita and her solo albums dedicated to Vivaldi, Gluck and Salieri and that she is firmly established as today’s “best-selling classical artist”.
This compilation of selections from a number of Cecilia Bartoli's recitals from between 1994 and 2009, plus several newly released tracks, is unified by the theme of sighs, "sospiri." The music expresses a variety of moods, including sighs of resignation, relaxation, grief, ecstasy, and romantic pleasure. The first of the two CDs is devoted to secular music, much of it operatic, and the second to sacred pieces. The album should offer few surprises to anyone who has a preconceived opinion of Bartoli's vocalism. Fans of her exuberant personality and dramatic temperament will find just what they would expect, as will detractors who are put off by what they feel to be her excessive flamboyance. In any case, whatever one's opinion of the outcome, there's no denying that Bartoli throws herself into all her projects with absolute abandon. She is so deeply invested in wringing the emotional truth out of a piece that she is not afraid to let her voice stray from the principles of bel canto singing that require that tonal beauty be maintained at all times.
Don't hate this album because it has been beautifully marketed, for if you do you'll miss out on something extraordinary. Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli reportedly worked on it for three years, even suggesting a mystery-novel tie-in, and her label, Decca, kept the contents under wraps until the album's release, dropping hints via Internet videos. When the album appeared, it was issued in a limited-edition hardbound package including numerous essays covering aspects of the life of the composer involved, Agostino Steffani.
inaugurated Cecilia Bartoli’s first season as Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in 2012. “Bartoli’s Dream Start with Dream Voices” wrote the Vienna Kurier of this uproarious Moshe Leiser/Patrice Caurier in which Bartoli heads a hand-picked cast including Andreas Scholl, Philippe Jaroussky and Anne Sofie Von Otter with Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini. “[Andreas Scholl’s] coloratura is note perfect, he phrases recitatives with as much musicianship as arias, and the steadiness and purity of his voice are remarkable.” The Financial Times
I do think that this Decca set is arguably the best compilation reissue of such a bulk of Handel work which has been released in a long time, just in time to commemorate the two hundred fiftieth anniversary of the passing of il caro Sassone. There is a lot in this box, absence of libretti notwithstanding. The enclosed booklet is essential to navigate you through the track listings and timings and little else but a small general essay on GFH.By John Van Note
This is Vivaldi and the Super, Super Bartoli at their best. Flawless in performance, execution and musicianship! This album is astounding and is super because it allows me to hear and SEE!"
‘Semele’ is presented in Robert Carsen’s stylish modern dress production, originally seen in London, and most recently staged at the Zurich Opera in 2007. The drama tells of the ambition of the beautiful mortal, Semele, who, not satisfied with being Jupiter’s mistress, strives with fatal results to supplant Jupiter’s wife, Juno. Conceived as an oratorio but nowadays presented as a stage drama, it is a superb vehicle for all the principals, not least the substantial title role, which includes such popular arias as ‘Endless pleasure’ and ‘Myself I shall adore’.
By 1741 Handel was out of the opera business. For three decades he had presided over a thriving Italian Opera House in London, had produced dozens of operas by other composers as well as written and produced some thirty five or so operas of his own composition. All this time he had been in the favor of the royals and the "people of Quality". However the tastes of the London audience had changed and he had gone from a wealthy man to near bankruptcy. Now he simply changed forms and was writing oratorios in English and was again prospering. A succession of "hits" folloowed including Messiah, Samson, Saul, Joseph and his Brethren etc. Then in 1743 he too up the script of Semele, a tale from Ovid…
Most opera lovers by now are familiar with Armida and her crew: Handel, Gluck, and any number of other composers were mad over the story of the enchantress and her attempts to lure the hero Rinaldo away from his crusading duties and into her enchanted isle. The form is essentially opera seria, but Haydn was too great a composer to be restricted by its rigidity and therefore gives us scenes in many forms: arioso leading into aria, accompanied recitative leading to big confrontational arias, and more… –Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com