Cecilia Bartoli – Biography
For more than two decades, Cecilia Bartoli has indisputably been one of the leading artists in the field of classical music. Her new opera roles, concert programmes and recording projects – exclusively on Decca – are eagerly awaited all over the world. The enormous success of her solo CDs such as The Vivaldi Album, Italian Arias by Gluck, The Salieri Album, Opera proibita, Maria, Sacrificium and Mission is reflected both in extraordinary sales which have firmly established her as today’s best-selling classical artist – 10 million copies of audio and video releases occupying the international pop charts for well over 100 weeks and garnering numerous “gold” certifications – and in major awards: five Grammys® (USA), ten Echos and a Bambi(Germany), two Classical Brit Awards (UK), the Victoire de la Musique (France) as well as many other prestigious prizes.
Cecilia Bartoli has brought classical music to millions of people all over the world. But beyond this fact, she is especially gratified that the popularity of her projects has kindled discussions that always lead to comprehensive re-evaluation and rediscovery – that of composers who have been passed over and of repertoire which has been forgotten.
Herbert von Karajan, Daniel Barenboim and Nikolaus Harnoncourt were among the first conductors to discover Cecilia Bartoli. They noticed her talent at a very early stage, when she had barely completed her vocal studies with her parents in her home-town of Rome. Since then, many further renowned conductors, pianists and orchestras have been her regular partners. In recent years, her work has begun to focus on collaborations with the most significant period-instrument orchestras (Akademie für Alte Musik, Les Arts Florissants, I Barocchisti, Basle Chamber Orchestra, Concentus Musicus Wien, Ensemble Matheus, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre and the Zurich period orchestra La Scintilla). Projects with orchestras in which Cecilia Bartoli assumes the overall artistic responsibility have also become increasingly important to her and were crowned by programmes jointly developed and performed with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
Cecilia Bartoli sings in the most important concert halls of Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Her stage appearances include prestigious opera houses and festivals such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Salzburg Festival and the Zurich Opera House, where she has presented many of her operatic roles for the first time. Current stage projects include Norma at the Salzburg Festival, Alcina in Zurich and Rossini’s Otello in Paris.
Cecilia Bartoli devoted herself to the early 19th century – the age of Italian Romanticism and bel canto – in 2008 and in particular to the legendary singer Maria Malibran, whose 200th birthday fell on 24 March. To mark the bicentenary, the artist released a new CD, Maria (Edison Award, Prix Caecilia), and the DVD Maria (The Barcelona Concert/Malibran Rediscovered). The historic birthday was observed in Malibran’s birthplace, Paris, when Cecilia Bartoli sang three concerts in a single day as the centrepiece of a “Malibran marathon” at the Salle Pleyel – collaborating with Lang Lang, Vadim Repin, Adam Fischer and Myung-Whun Chung. Meanwhile the city of Paris showed her Barcelona concert on a large screen outside the Hôtel de Ville, where the singer’s mobile Malibran Museum was stationed to honour the special event. Other “Maria” activities included extensive concert tours as well as opera appearances as Cenerentola, Amina (La sonnambula) and Halévy’s Clari, in a Malibran opera which had not been performed since 1829. Rounding off this remarkable homage to Maria Malibran were the first complete recording of La sonnambula with period instruments and a mezzo-soprano in the title role (with Juan Diego Florez as Elvino) and a historically informed rendering of Norma at the Dortmund Konzerthaus in June 2010, with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role, Thomas Hengelbrock conducting the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble on period instruments and a cast reflecting the original vocal disposition in Bellini’s time.
Much of the artist’s 2009/10 season was dedicated to a rediscovery of music written for the great Neapolitan castrato stars of the 18th century. The release of the record-breaking solo album Sacrificium with Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini in October 2009 was accompanied by concerts featuring this repertoire in all the major European musical capitals.
2010 also saw Decca’s DVD release of the Zurich Opera production of Halévy’s tragicomic opera Clari, with Cecilia Bartoli essaying the role created by Maria Malibran and Adam Fischer conducting the period-instrument Orchestra La Scintilla. Also released on CD: “Sospiri”, a collection of intimate arias from Cecilia’s best-loved albums. Autumn 2012 marked the release of “Mission”, showcasing arias and duets by the Italian Baroque composer Agostino Steffani. Cecilia Bartoli’s collaborators in this multi-media project (featuring a DVD and a special iPad app) include Philippe Jaroussky as well as the Coro della Radiotelevisione svizzera and the period orchestra I Barocchisti under conductor Diego Fasolis. In conjunction with this rapturously acclaimed project (“With Mission she surpasses herself . . . It’s as though this music had been waiting for an individualist like Bartoli to discover it.” – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), Cecilia Bartoli, I Barocchisti and Diego Fasolis have undertaken an extensive European tour in 2012-13. Their new recording of the Steffani Stabat Mater is scheduled for release in 2013.
In 2012 Cecilia Bartoli became Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival. In her first year, the theme was Cleopatra and she sang this role in Handel’s guise leading a star-studded cast including Andreas Scholl, Philippe Jaroussky, Anne Sofie von Otter, Christophe Dumaux and Jochen Kowalski and conducted by Giovanni Antonini. In 2013 the festival will be subtitled “Sacrifice – Opfer – Victim” and will include the singer’s stage debut as Norma. The same month, May 2013, brings the CD release of Bellini’s opera starring Cecilia Bartoli and Giovanni Antonini conducting the Orchestra La Scintilla. Two further Bartoli DVD releases will follow this year, Rossini’s Le Comte Ory ‒ also performed with a new critical edition and period instruments ‒ and Handel’s Giulio Cesare.
Cecilia Bartoli has been awarded the Italian knighthood and is an “Accademico effettivo” of Santa Cecilia, Rome, a French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite as well as an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, London, and the Royal Swedish Music Academy. She was presented with the prestigious Italian prize Bellini d’Oro, a Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes, one of the highest awards of the Spanish Ministry of Culture, and the Médaille Grand Vermeil de la Ville de Paris. On the occasion of the Handel anniversary year of 2009, Cecilia Bartoli was made an honorary member of the advisory board of the Halle Handel House Foundation, and the following year she received the Halle Handel Prize. Also in 2010, she was awarded the renowned Danish Léonie Sonning Music Prize in Copenhagen, in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, as well as an honorary doctorate by the venerable University College of Dublin. Most recently she received the Herbert von Karajan Prize in Baden-Baden, a rare Swiss Award for Culture 2012 and was made Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérit Culturel of the Principality of Monaco.