Cecilia Bartoli (Hong Kong Arts Festival)
Tuesday was the opening night of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Actually, festival events have been running for a few days, but as happens with these things sometimes, the “official” opened was made to coincide with a big marquee event. And, as far as classical music goes, they don’t get a lot bigger than Cecilia […]
Tuesday was the opening night of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Actually, festival events have been running for a few days, but as happens with these things sometimes, the “official” opened was made to coincide with a big marquee event. And, as far as classical music goes, they don’t get a lot bigger than Cecilia Bartoli.
One of today’s most well known Opera stars, Bartoli is both a commercial and critical success (she recently won a Grammy for her latest album, Sacrificium). Her career has been atypical for an star in her field. She rose to prominence at a young age (by Opera standards) and has often explored more difficult, obscure songs and composers – not the safe way to greater sales.
The first Bartoli album I bought was Rossini Heroines, from 1992. I recall a made for television documentary, with performance footage, that screened on SBS TV in Australia around the same time. There was speculation, early on, that her voice would not develop the depth required to carry off larger operatic performances. But, she has risen to that challenge.
However, she performs in concert mode more often than appearing in full Operas. Here in Hong Kong she is doing two performances. Tuesday night was a selection of songs from Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Bizet, Viardot, Garcia, Malibran and Handel (there is a second performance tonight,featuring music from Sacrificium that I won’t be able to attend). Bartoli was accompanied on stage by pianist Sergio Ciomei.
I’m sure the event was a sell-out, but it was disappointing to see a lot of empty seats (which I’m guessing may have been corporate no-shows).
But, the concert itself was magnificent and in the end the audience rose to their feet in applause as Bartoli finished her third encore. For me, the highlights of the night were Bartoli’s interpretations of Havanise by Pauline Viardot, Vaga luna, che inargenti by Vincenzo Bellini and Rataplan by Maria Malibran. But, the truth is there were so many great moments that highlighted both Bartoli’s technical ambiguity and her ability to breath life into difficult and emotionally charged songs.
It was a splendid concert and wonderful start to the festival. Next up the Berliner Ensemble with
The Threepenny Opera.