Still in her 20s, the Rome-born Cecilia Bartoli has in remarkably short order won unanimous praise from aficionados of bel canto opera and song recitals as well. Her second Ambassador recital, following a two-year absence, drew a capacity crowd that may be cheering still.
The program was almost all Italian: Minor songs by Beethoven and Schubert that became major by dint of the singer’s imaginative skills; endearing and witty tunes by Rossini and Bellini, one of the two mad scenes from the latter’s “I Puritani” and Mozart’s beloved “Exsultate Jubilate” with its tonsil-twisting final “Alleluia.”
The final encore, though, was an enchantingly sexy rendition of the “Seguidilla” from Bizet’s “Carmen,” suggesting an entirely new direction for her future repertory plans.
Bartoli’s rise to eminence has been rapid, but it has also been wisely paced — due in large part to some splendid teaching and career management from her mother, herself a respected diva in several Italian opera houses. On a series of best-selling London discs and a carefully spaced series of appearances, she has worked her magic on a fairly limited repertory — Mozart and the bel canto style of the early 19th century — which she now masters with remarkable ease and a vocal technique close to flawless.
The impression she projects, as her Ambassador recital made abundantly clear, is that she adores the music she sings, and her own glorious talent in singing it so well.
Nicely seconded from the keyboard by veteran pianist and opera coach Gyorgy Fischer, Bartoli served the Ambassador crowd with an evening of rapturous singing, stupendous in technical prowess but also warm-hearted and ingratiating. (It was recorded for later broadcast both on NPR’s “Performance Today” and on KUSC-FM).
There is no one quite like her these days. Reports have it that the morning after the recital she was invited by the Music Center Opera to check out the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for a possible operatic engagement. The advice from this corner: If she doesn’t like it, build another.