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Opera Proibita (Bonus Track Version)

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Parental Advisory stickers weren't an option in 1701, so Pope Clement XI censored public performance in Rome with an outright ban on opera. Rather than sit around for ten years waiting for the trouble to blow over, Handel, Scarlatti, and Caldara turned their attention to dramatic oratorios, composing scores of religious works that were operas in all but name. Continuing her tradition of scrupulously researched and imaginatively programmed collections, Cecilia Bartoli's Opera Proibita presents virtuosic arias from this unique period in the musical history of her native city. Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre provide riveting accompaniment to Bartoli's astonishingly flexible and musical voice. The album comes with a comprehensive digital booklet that provides fascinating insight into the world of “forbidden opera.”

Customer Reviews

new to opera because of this record and Miss Bartoli

I'm a 33 year old primarily rock music fan. I heard Miss Bartoli on NPR and was drawn into her passion for this music, of which I have zero knowledge. When she sings, she does things with her voice I didn't know were humanly possible. This is the only opera album I have ever considered buying, because she was not pretentious or pompous about it, but very sincerely in love with the music, and she's such an animated, excited woman. She sounded like she would jump through my radio. Very intense and joyful.

Worthy Recording of an Unusual Genre

Censorship creates unique creative hurdles that Scarlatti, Caldara, and Handel sought to overcome. Instead of using operatic characters, these excerpts use characters that are allegorical representations of qualities (love, avarice, beauty, etc). Herein lies the great challenge that is one of the highlights of this recording. Bartoli effectively creates contrasts that expressively communicate the text within the context of the represented quality. Also notable on this recording is Cecilia Bartoli's incredible artistry. Check out track 14 (La Resurrezione "Disserratevi oh porte..." and track 9 San Filippo Neri "Qui resta..." for exhibitions of her talent in handling melismas. Bartoli matches the oboes and trumpets so precisely that her voice becomes that which she accompanies. Of this great album, only track 7 Il triofo del Tiemp e del Disinganna detracts. This track sounds harried with an orchestral tendency to rush descending passages. This is only a minor flaw in this well executed recording!

It Stirs the Soul and Fires the Imagination

In Opera Proibita, Bartoli's repertoire proves her to be not only a consummate vocal artist but also a great scholar. This CD intriguingly explores forgotten music written in Rome between 1703 and 1710 during a papal ban on local opera performances. Bartoli literally went back to ancient manuscripts to find most of these songs, making this CD a truly original experience. With great fluidity, Bartoli sings arias written for the castrati not only by the reigning composer of the day, Handel, but also Alessandro Scarlatti and Antonio Caldara, as women had been banished from the stage more than a century earlier. Bartoli gives us a powerful and emotionally intense performance. She is one of the most generous performers one could encounter, in that she gives everything to her art. Bartoli's voice is dark in tone but light in timbre, like a fine red wine or the best chocolate. It has edge when she wants to give it edge, with a sort of cutting fury and rhythmic intensity that spits out rage and ecstasy. Her voice can also contain a meltingly sweet gossamer beauty when she wants that. Bartoli’s voice has a staggeringly extensive range, with upper notes that put some sopranos to shame, and those gorgeous lower notes which make sopranos weep with envy. Her vocal runs in "Un pensiero nemico di face" sounds like a first violin, and as if this was not difficult enough she ornaments the da capo malismas in tempo from allegro to presto molto vivace with great ease and certainty. It is true that at times she attacks the rapid ornate coloratura so hard that she breaks the singing line. She does not have the smooth and polished sound of great baroque mezzo-sopranos like Bernarda Fink, Patrizia Ciofi, and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson but she has something better than that: an intense fire and energy which one can’t help being drawn to like a moth to a flame. She is a singer which fires the imagination and stirs the soul. The music itself is of a uniformly sublime standard. The arias are carefully chosen to contrast with each other in technical demand, emotional quality, required timbre, sentiment and meaning. From heartbreakingly beautiful songs like “Sì piangete pupille dolente” and “Caldo sangue” to the joyfully triumphant climax from Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno the music and Bartoli’s performance astounds. If you wish to hear oratorio sung with all the passion of opera, and all the technical expertise and heart-spinning emotional impact that one of the finest artists in the world brings to it, this recording will give you endless pleasure.


Born: June 4, 1966 in Rome, Italy

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli was among the most popular figures in contemporary opera, wowing audiences and critics alike with her rich, gentle vocals and expressive three-and-a-half octave range. A native of Rome born June 4, 1966, Bartoli was the daughter of opera singers, and her mother, Silvana Bazzoni, was her first and only vocal instructor. She made her professional debut at age nine, and at 19 rocketed to fame in the wake of a star-making Italian television appearance opposite soprano Katia...
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