Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bartoli Sacrificium: She Does it Again!


How does one even begin to review such an album as this? With the recording industry in basically a shambles, little attention paid to serious classical vocalists, this has been, so far, a year of remarkable releases for which this one goes to the top of a very distinguished pile.

Bartoli has crossed a line most unique here in sharing her magnificent obsession with the castrati of the Italian baroque. The very title of the album itself is awe inspiring and thought provoking. While the very notion of castration is abhorrent and screams against nature without it some of the most amazing, most beautiful music ever composed would have most likely never been composed. Sacrificium is about an apt a name for this project as there could possibly be.

Through 15 selections, Bartoli – brilliantly partnered by Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini – takes us on a voyage – a journey of remarkable musicmaking that is exhilarating as it is exhausting, as joyous as it is tragic and as intellectually stimulating as it is emotional. We begin the journey an aria by the nearly forgotten Porpora, Come nave in mezzo all’onde, a virtuostic exercise that shows almost every baroque trick compacted into a whirlwind lasting just 4 minutes. Bartoli sails through with an energy that is matched by the spirited ensemble and what a thrill it is to hear brass instruments play with this kind of fierce “to the devil” kind of tone and energy. Thrilling seems too gentle a word for this kind of performance.

Immediately things settle back down to earth only to rise upwards again in an entirely different direction as Bartoli and the musicians offer an inspired reading of the prayer Profezie, di me diceste from Caldara’s “Sedecia.” The final line “Let the moment that ends my days bring everlasting peace,” captured with a sound that is both captivating and heartfelt. Bartoli shows us (again) that she can hold us, can dazzle us and move us with music of such quiet gentility every bit as she can with the coloratura showpieces. Her range in this music is never less than astonishing and while her top remains bright and tightly coiled, her singing from the lower voice has never been more attractive as can be heard in these slower arias.

Throughout this set Bartoli captures our imagination and spirit and instantly transports us back centuries going to one of the most exciting – and dangerous – eras in music history. Her trills, roulades, pinpoint accuracy, sense of line, attention to details both musical and textual reveal a commitment that is never less than total and what a supreme joy it is to spend time with this set. The album is fiercely and attractively packaged, its two CDs wedged on either side of 150+ pages of essays, notes, photographs both disturbing and stunning, including the 100 page “Castrato Compendium” – an alphabetically listed mini-encyclopedia of all things castrati.

Typically I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite moment from so extraordinary a set, but having now listened to it several times – at least for the time being – will nominate Porpora’s aria “”Parto, ti lascio o cara” from his 1732 opera “Germanico in Germania.” One of the slower paced arias (with a fierce, short-burst of a “B” section), it is as beautiful and perfectly sung a piece of music as I can ever recall hearing.

Lovers of baroque opera, of the beauty of the human voice as well as those fascinated by undiscovered musical treasures should all have good reason to rejoice. The sacrifice has been made, and we’re all the richer for it.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul, thanks for your insightful reviews which I love to read . On opera-l I found your request to revive the forum by, for instance. reviewing Bartoli's Sacrificium concerts. I had the pleasure to attend some of them in Europe, so maybe you would like to have a look at some youtube clips. Bad in sound and picture as they are, they might still give you a slight idea of the energy level, technical skills and profound musicality in all its aspects that are IMHO a "trademark" of a Bartoli concert. And it's a state of bliss which takes three full hours with 12-13 long arias and 3-4 encores.

There are no plans for a US tour at the moment (do you know why a US tour is not done very often by singers of her caliber ?)but maybe she'll jump over in 2011.12 - and I wish you success with booking a ticket. Her last concert in Paris Salle Pleyel (3200 seats) sold out within 5 hours...

Magnificent introspective lamenti like per pieta, A il mio cor etc she only sings in concert , they are not (yet) recorded , and there is no recording on youtube. So I include from the encores section of recent concerts one humourous, and one rage aria plus one aria di baula di Farinelli...(during a 5x messa di voce she turns around to the people sitting on stage behind her)

And standing ovations in Europe are not so common than they are in the US..:-))

Enjoy and cheers M.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvo-OR1UylE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ0QtQrvuzo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlYt3Ms_zZE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG0NcLcn0h4

December 20, 2010 at 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul, thanks for your insightful reviews which I love to read . On opera-l I found your request to revive the forum by, for instance. reviewing Bartoli's Sacrificium concerts. I had the pleasure to attend some of them in Europe, so maybe you would like to have a look at some youtube clips. Bad in sound and picture as they are, they might still give you a slight idea of the energy level, technical skills and profound musicality in all its aspects that are IMHO a "trademark" of a Bartoli concert. And it's a state of bliss which takes three full hours with 12-13 long arias and 3-4 encores.

There are no plans for a US tour at the moment (do you know why a US tour is not done very often by singers of her caliber ?)but maybe she'll jump over in 2011.12 - and I wish you success with booking a ticket. Her last concert in Paris Salle Pleyel (3200 seats) sold out within 5 hours...

Magnificent introspective lamenti like per pieta, A il mio cor etc she only sings in concert , they are not (yet) recorded , and there is no recording on youtube. So I include from the encores section of recent concerts one humourous, and one rage aria plus one aria di baula di Farinelli...(during a 5x messa di voce she turns around to the people sitting on stage behind her)

And standing ovations in Europe are not so common than they are in the US..:-))

Enjoy and cheers M.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvo-OR1UylE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ0QtQrvuzo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlYt3Ms_zZE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG0NcLcn0h4

December 20, 2010 at 1:15 PM  

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