Cecilia Bartoli sings to a mesmerised audience with her voice full of power and agility.
She opens the recital with Romantic Italian songs by Rossini and Bellini. Not every songs exploit her full expressive power, but she delivers every piece with abundant nuances to taste. The Italian pianist Sergio Ciome supports the diva so well, attending to small changes in music. There are so many spontaneous exchanges between them and hearing their conversation, in musical language, is a divine enjoyment.
Though the experienced pianist also takes the diva a surprise by skipping the Bizet in the second half. The attentive audience duly responds by furiously, yet quietly flipping the house programme to find where the lyrics have gone.
The pianist also does an out-of-the-score transition that traverses between two pieces of different keys. This is very tastefully done.
Her vocal agility is fully displayed in the end of the first half, when she sings Rossini’s Canzonetta spagnuola and La danza, where she traverses different registers with ease. Her affection to the music also heatens the audience so much that a wave of her arm is echoed by giggles, and a winkle of her eye is echoed by delightful gasps.
The second half begins with Italian songs by Donizetti. By singing Rossini’s French songs, Ms. Bartoli cleverly links the Italian domain to the French and Spanish domain that comes thereafter. More sensual and expressive, the second half also sees Ms. Bartoli’s dance to a Spanish rhythm.
Three encores are offered to a thunderous audience, including Handel’s Lascia La Spina, Cogli La Rosa. Although totally out of place in an evening of all 19th-century Italian, French and Spanish songs, Ms. Bartoli magically concludes the evening with all the devotion and suspension that the music requires.
It only makes that the audience yearns for more. Many of my friends come out of the auditorium, with such grace and satisfaction, looking forward to hearing the upcoming concert featuring music from the new disc Sacrificium. Sadly I don’t have that fortune.
Photo © Uli Weber/Decca
Date: February 22, 2011
Place: Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall
Part of the 2011 Hong Kong Arts Festival