Composer: Antonio Salieri
Performer: Cecilia Bartoli
Orchestra: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
Conductor: Adam Fischer
Number of Discs: 1 SACD-R
Bit Depth: 64(2.8 MHz/1 Bit)
Number of channels: 5.0, 2.0
Label: Decca Music
Size: 3.69 GB
Cecilia Bartoli, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Adam Fischer / The Salieri Album
La Secchia rapita
01. Son qual lacera tartana (Act 2)
La Scuola dei gelosi
02. Or ei con Ernestina…Ah sia già (Act 2)
La Fiera di Venezia
03. Vi sono sposa e amante (Act 3)
Palmira, Regina di Persia
04. Voi lusingate invano lo smarito cor mio…Misera abbandonata (Act 2)
La Cifra (Original Version)
05. E voi da buon marito…Non vò già’ che vi suonino (Act 2)
06. Alfin son sola…Sola e mesta (Act 2)
Il Ricco d’un giorno (Original Version)
07. Dopo pranzo addormentata (Act 2)
La Secchia rapita
08. No, non vacillerà…Sulle mie tempie (Act 2)
Palmira, Regina di Persia
09. Lungi da me sen vada quella veste fatal…Dunque anche il cielo…Contro un’alma sventurata (Act 1)
La Finta scema (Original Version)
10. Se lo dovessi vendere (Act 2)
Il Ricco d’un giorno
11. Eccomi più che mai…Amor pietoso Amore (Act 2)
La Grotta di Trofonio
12. La ra la (Act 2)
13. E non degg’io seguirla!…Forse chi sà…Vieni a me sull’ali d’oro (Act 2)
By Eric Bergerud on March 5, 2004
However, let’s put Ms. Bartoli in a little perspective. I’ll let others wax eloquent on her voice (or find fault for reasons beyond my comprehension). However, I would like to propose that Ms. Bartoli may be the most important performer of her generation because of the potential impact she is having or may have on the repertoire itself.
For a little perspective, recall that after 1945 “bel canto” opera, with the exception of a handful of works, had disappeared from the stage outside of Italy. Along come Maria Calas, Joan Sutherland and Beverly Sills and by the 1960’s there are dozens of recordings of operas by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and even Cherubini (MEDEA is a genuinely great work). Cecilia Bartoli, with a little luck, will precipitate a rediscovery of what I am convinced is pure gold in the field of early classical and baroque opera.
Between 1640-1770 opera grew steadily in popularity. Many hundreds were written to please the eager patrons, from a surprisingly broad range of social classes, of the steadily growing number of opera houses that began to clog the continent. (Some opera even made it to the English Colonies in North America well before the little disagreement with the Crown.) If you read a standard history (Fred Plotkin’s simple work is a good example) it will tell the following story. Composers of the baroque era, eager to please the unwashed peons and mindless aristocrats buying opera tickets, chose libretti, usually loosely inspired by classical mythology, of zero literary merit. The words were simple devices to get from one aria, duet or chorus to another. Mind you, this practice was, in the eyes of later critics, a bad bad thing. Sitting around and listening to beautiful (or perhaps merely pretty) songs was, I guess, a trivial pastime. The arch-villain in the piece was Pietro Metastasio an Italian poet and author of dozens of libretti. Frivolity by Metastasio and others led to the exhaustion of the art form. Then, like the cavalry, comes Gluck and his “reform” operas that attempted to balance the story with the music creating something profound. With a few bumps along the road (like Mozart or the bel canto masters who all put the music clearly on top of the musical heap) a new art develops and triumphs with mature Verdi and, especially, Wagner. If we accept the pundits’ story, the road to heaven continues through Bizet (cigarette factories instead of Troy: a giant leap for mankind no doubt), Puccini, Britten and, heavens, pretty soon we have the pleasure of listening to NIXON IN CHINA.
Cecilia Bartoli sells CDs in mega-numbers in “classical terms” and has developed a fanatic following which is unlike that of any other singer. And how has she done it? She started by showing an uncanny skill for several roles in Mozart and Rossini. Well established as a rising star, one would think she would have moved more solidly into heart of opera-land. But Bartoli didn’t know the script. Instead, she marched steadily backward, into the vapid artistic swamp of baroque opera. She hits the charts with an album of Gluck works – many from his decadent Metastasio period. The music’s great. My books assure me that whatever his orchestral skills, Vivaldi’s operas weren’t worth the time of day. Cecilia Bartoli makes a spectacular Vivaldi album. My books assure me that whatever his orchestral skills, Haydn’s opera’s weren’t worth the time of day (Metastasio you know). Cecilia Bartoli makes a spectacular Haydn album. To really show what she thought of a hundred years of musical criticism, Ms. Bartoli recorded a gorgeous album (THE IMPATIENT LOVER) that consists of songs composed by Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and Mozart employing lyrics by – get this – Pietro Metastasio. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she now chooses to bring Salieri, the Metastasio of his era, to the top of the classical charts.
I think Cecilia Bartoli is trying to tell the world’s opera lovers that there exists a gold mine of unexplored musical beauty sitting right in the back yard. All that has to be done is to record it. Ms. Bartoli has thrown her big hat into the ring. Her most recent work is a DVD of a performance of NINA by Giovanni Paisiello, another “pre-reform” composer who committed the crime of not being Mozart. I don’t have my clutches on it yet, but the buzz is that it’s great.
All music lovers must want the repertoire to expand. I would like to think that modern composers can rediscover beauty and hope it will happen. (It does sometimes.) Until then, let’s hope that opera companies bring to life a century’s worth of music derided and discarded by late 19th Century critics. No doubt there are duds out there. Perhaps there are works that could be “staged” rather than performed (dump the recitative if it really is inane). And perhaps there are some really nice works out there ready to go. If Maria Callas was able to rescue Rossini and his immediate successors from a century of deaf pundits, we may hope that Cecilia Bartoli will do the same for a legion of Italian composers that entranced Europe for over a century. If she does so, or helps the process along, lovers of music will be in her debt.