Well of course it was going to be a success. Bartoli's Australian fans snapped up tickets for her first visit to their country. But after all the expectation there is the risk of an anticlimax. Not here. Not for Bartoli. After the first concert in Perth The West Australian wrote:
From the roar of welcome as she came on stage through a faultlessly essayed journey across some of the toughest vocal terrain imaginable, Bartoli was in her element. In a glamorous, strapless red gown, she was queen of all she surveyed.
With her ability to sing what would be a closed book for just about every other singer, Bartoli is the vocal equivalent of Horowitz at the piano. I listened in awe to the astonishing agility and suppleness of a voice that knows no fear. It was a frankly thrilling experience. I particularly admired her deeply moving account of Donizetti's Amore e morte. And in Rossini's La danza, Bartoli negotiated a ferociously demanding vocal line with seeming effortlessness, as were the echo effects in the same composer's L'Orpheline du Tyrol.
Bartoli also had the priceless advantage of piano accompaniments provided by Sergio Ciomei who, chameleon-like, adjusted effortlessly to the subtlest nuances of tone and tempo in the vocal line. It is impossible to praise his contribution too highly.
Such was the brilliance and magnetism of both singer and pianist that the audience was reluctant to let them go home. And so came a winning set of four encores, the last, which was taken from Bartoli's recent Grammy Award-winning CD Sacrificium, unleashing a maelstrom of trills and roulades such as has never been heard in the Perth Concert Hall – and probably never will be again.
The Australian was in complete agreement:
Whoever convinced Cecilia Bartoli to overcome her aversion to flying and make the long journey to Australia deserves a medal. With more than 10 million CDs sold, Bartoli is one of the biggest names in music and one of the world's greatest singers, yet the prospect of seeing her perform here always seemed slim. The extraordinary thing about Bartoli, despite all the accolades and awards, the impressive recordings and the unassailable reputation, is that in live performance she surpasses all expectations. On Wednesday she was, quite simply, superb.
In a stunning, strapless red gown she presented a generous program of 19th-century music, much of it not well known, yet through all 28 songs she held the audience enthralled. Bartoli brought to life every phrase with absolute conviction, musically and psychologically, carrying the audience with her on the journey of each song.
Very much at home in this repertoire, she delivered difficult coloratura with breathtaking agility, even managing a smile and a wink at the audience at the same time. The more lyrical songs were judged to perfection; delicate, heart-wrenching yet sophisticated. She especially relished the humorous works, her infectious cheekiness brimming from the stage.
The Australian tour continues until March 18.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.