Cecilia Bartoli

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Cecilia Bartoli has become one of the most celebrated mezzo-sopranos in the world. Her voice seems like a perfect blend of power and grace and many of her interpretations are loved for their intimacy and expressiveness. Her album Se tu m'ami (If you love me) features a collection of 18th century Italian songs, each with a distinct personality and vocal uniqueness. Two of the selections, Scarlatti's Son tutta duolo and Spesso vibra per suo gioco provided me with contrasting examples that demonstrate a wide range of vocal techniques and qualities.

After a brief piano introduction, Son tutta duolo begins with impressive leaps of the voice at the mezzo-piano dynamic. Bartoli handles this with pure agility and grace. You can hear the quiet and solemn nature of the translation "I grieve … and have nothing but anguish" and she maintains a full and rich voice throughout. Her upper register is very warm when delivered but never too dark. Occasionally I find her consonant sounds to be muffled or inaudible within this range and at such a soft dynamic. I'm sure this is difficult to achieve with even the very best singers and would require the appropriate hall and recording environment to capture such nuance (when achieved).

At the recapitulation of the text Bartoli implores a great deal of freedom and expressiveness in her embellishments. These include legato melismatic passages where each note has distinct weight and firm rhythm. Again, this shows tremendous control and musicianship. Some of the embellishments sound like tiny quivering trills and her ability to transition from them into a resolving note or cadence is absolutely beautiful.

Spesso vibra per suo gioco seemed virtuosic to me in every sense. The opening triplet gesture is punctuated on the breath with rapid changes in dynamic. The clarity of her diction remains distinct throughout in spite of the vigorous rhythms and quick tempi. Some of her rolled R's seemed very rapid, tight, and at...
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