Like all great singers Cecilia Bartoli seems to be a singer some “get”, but certainly not everybody. After last night’s Handel concert in the Barbican two reviews are in; Ismene Brown for The Arts Desk “gets” her:
Cecilia Bartoli invites you to her party, she stands on stage beaming and welcoming you as her guest, about to serve up a banquet of song. This is what last night’s concert felt like in the glowing warmth of this remarkable Italian mezzo-soprano’s company, singing one of her favourite composers, Handel, ranging from the sunlit laughter that seems embedded in her voice to some of the most tragically moving singing I’ve heard.
These operas were written to dazzle with the kind of vocal brilliance of which Bartoli has become a peerless executant. One might call it extreme singing…
…Yet if no one can rage as furiously as Bartoli storms up and down scales and arpeggios from alto to high soprano, so no one laughs and bubbles quite as sexily she does. In the Teseo aria, “Ah, che sol”, the rapidity, liquidity and sheer complicatedness of her coloratura in an almost insane competition with an oboist made one just smile with joy. In Cleopatra’s “V’adoro pupille” her voice was silkiest mink seduction, in “Che sento?… Se pietà” utmost tragedy, almost Wagnerian in emotional reach, and in “Da tempeste” of such phenomenal dexterity and merriment that I found tears in my eyes. For some people she’s just too manipulative, but to me Bartoli shows as few people do that singing is above all a fount of joy in life, and if you have a voice, you seize it with all your might and shake all the fruits out of it.
But Barry Millington for the Evening Standard is less convinced:
It would be difficult to think of a soprano who could outclass the Italian Cecilia Bartoli in terms of her immaculately schooled tone and dazzling technique. She is impressively innovative in her choice of repertoire, too, and generous with fellow-artists and audience alike.
Last night’s concert of arias by Handel featured music of greater emotional weight than she has sometimes presented, and yet it was possible, in spite.