"The reincarnation of Maria Malibran!" proclaimed
her fans years before "Bartolimania" swept across the US.
Cecilia Bartoli was only 16 then, and to the young singer with a budding
career who knew practically next to nothing about opera's first superstar,
it was an empty accolade - "just a name" as she herself tells
it (play video clip below). But as her career flourished, and
with it a now unstoppable scholarly curiosity that has led her to exciting
explorations into music that best suits her mezzo-soprano voice, she
gained more than a nodding acquaintance with the first ever diva named
Maria (No, Maria Callas wasn't the first mega-primadonna!), giving new
life to early 19th century bel canto treasures that could
have been lost forever. As she did with her earlier attempts at musical
archaeology, if you will, in which she journeyed back into the music
of the 17th and 18th century, unearthing hidden treasures, and recording
them for posterity (The
Vivaldi Album, The
Salieri Album and Opera
Proibita) with as much historical authenticity
as could be summoned from orchestral accompaniment with period instruments.
Today's vocal and operatic repertoire is richer as a result of her efforts.
Bartoli's interest in Malibran was perhaps also helped along by her
early familiarity with the songs of Pauline Viardot that made up part
of her early recital and recording repertoire (e.g., "Havannaise"
and "Hai Luli" in the albums Live
in Italy and Chant
d'Amour.) Maria Malibran's younger sister, Viardot
became famous in her own right as an opera singer and composer whose
life and fame enjoyed a longevity that escaped Malibran, who died prematurely
at age 28. Viardot, who quickly filled the shoes of her famous
sister, lived to be 89 but definitely not in her shadow. Although she
is said not to have been blessed with Maria's fabled physical assets,
she nevertheless also stirred the passions of the masses and inspired
the artists and intellectuals of her time.
This shared largesse of musical talent
implies a gene pool that coded for MUSIC - with a bias toward the vocal
and theatrical arts. And indeed, music ran in the family, as superstar
Cecilia Bartoli herself learned when she journeyed through the life
and art of Maria Malibran. She followed the footprints - from womb to
tomb, collecting artefacts and minding the music as she mined documents
and historical records as well as scoured extant musical scores (of
works she composed or were composed for her) for everything and anything
they could tell her about the person and most importantly, the VOICE.
result is a most enjoyable and informative CD album in a beautifully
crafted and lavishly illustrated book format, in which Cecilia shares
her bel canto discoveries in the best way she knows how - through
music that is uniquely La Bartoli's even as she attempts to
recreate a legendary voice and the art of singing in the age of Malibran:with amazing vocal flexibility, virtuosic coloratura, distinctive
phrasing, and beauty of sound. It is noteworthy that 8 of the 17 pieces
included in the album are world premiere recordings, a happy result
of Bartoli's diligent scholarship.
are links to video/audio excerpts from selected tracks that vividly
tell the story, albeit in a musically representational way, of Malibran's
life and times. Orchestral accompaniment with period instruments by
the ORCHESTRA LA SCINTILLA under the direction of ADAM FISCHER successfully
captures the colors, harmonies and sonorities of the era.
E NON LO VEDO... SON REGINA - Track 9* [A
recitative with chorus from Act 2 of La figlia dell'aria
by MANUEL GARCÍA, possibly the first opera
to have premiered in America (NY, 1925 - the year the
family moved to America);sung by Semiramide, the
principal character (among several) created by García
for his gifted daughter Maria.]
COME DOLCE A ME FAVELLI - Track 14*
[From Act 1 of Clari, a little known opera
in 3 acts
by the French composer JACQUES FROMENTAL
HALÈVY, for the voice of MALIBRAN who sang the title role.
The work premiered in Paris in 1828, the year after she
left New York for Paris (the city of her birth) at the age of 20,
fleeing an overpowering father and a troubled marriage to
a Frenchman of Spanish descent, 28 years her senior named
Eugene Malibran. All of Paris idolized her and the rest of
Europe was swept away. But she earned the disdain of
Parisian high society when she fell in love and lived openly
with the good-looking Belgian violinist Charles de Bériot, which
caused her to leave France in 1832, never to return.
RATAPLAN - Track 10 [This
song, one of 50-odd songs by MARIA MALIBRAN, composer,
and published in her Album Lyrique, was among her most famous
works. Exactly when she wrote it is not known, but hearing Cecilia
Bartoli sing this orchestrated version, which was found in the opera
archives in Dresden, one quickly realizes why the song which
simulates the military drum roll that opens the piece was so popular.
Her sense of humor, which Bartoli speculates about on the basis of
her letters is also quite apparent in this very enjoyable piece.
INFELICE - Track 4*
[A German Romantic song excerpted from
the "scena ed aria" Infelice by FELIX MENDELSSOHN]
CASTA DIVA - Track 17
[From the popular aria from BELLINI's
PRENDI, PER ME SEI LIBERO - Track 16*
[From a new aria by MARIA MALIBRAN, replacing
one written by BELLINI for the character of Adina in his opera L'elisir d'amore.]
Parallels have been drawn between Malibran's
and Bartoli's meteoric careers. The comparison isn't entirely
out of place: two operatic superstars who, both barely out of their
youth, set the bar for singing and artistic achievement - each in her
own time. And this album by one of today's reigning "divas"
is a joyful tribute to the artist who first personified the word - on
the eve of her 200th birth anniversary. Cecilia Bartoli takes
the recording on a European tour
- "Maria Malibran la rivoluzione romantica"- that
culminates on March 24, 2008, Malibran's birthday, in a Gala Concert
at the historic Salle Pleyel in Paris, the city of her birth.
Cecilia's avowed fascination with Malibran and her music will easily
become the listener's own. This CD is a golden delight! It is
what happens when scholarship fuses with art and the love of singing.
The rejoinder to Cecilia's "Viva La Malibran!" can
only be "Viva La Bartoli!"
-GC � FanFaire 2007