Tonight saw Cecilia Bartoli make a rare London appearance, singing Les Nuits
d'Ete with Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Quite a lot was said when Bartoli sung this in Chicago, and there isn't that
much to add. Once again, this was definitely a 'Cecilia Event': the audience
went wild with adulation; she beamed obligingly back at them, and gave an
obligatory encore (see below). And, once again, all the mannerisms in her
voice that irritate me were there as well: i.e. her fluttery, breathy tone
and the way she tends to distort the vocal line in the 'big moments'.
BUT, (and this is a big but) there's no denying her skills as a communicator,
nor the magical way she used her voice in many telling instances. When she
sang for example 'Ce leger parfum est mon ame et j'arrive du paradis' [Le
spectre de la rose], or 'Reviens, reviens, ma bien-aimee!' [Absence] time
seemed to stop. Call it what you like, but Bartoli has a unique way of
colouring her voice, particularly in moments of pathos. For that reason I
think she would be a stellar Melisande. But what's also admirable about her
is the way she can adapt to different styles - she was just as affecting as
Almirena in Rinaldo, but in a completely different fach. (I won't forget her
'Lascia ch'io pianga' in a hurry) It's also nice to find that her diction in
both Italian and French is practically flawless.
In fact it's her coloratura displays that I find most disagreeable, and I was
pretty revolted by the tasteless encoring of Berlioz's Bolero. One half
expected Bartoli to announce that along with the castanets she would perform
the piece on a unicycle. Save it for the circus.