Monday, March 14, 2011


You know you want to - it's 10 million CD Cecilia Bartoli.

To be honest, rather than really really wanting to hear her, it was that I didn't want to not hear her. So, before it completely sold out, driven by some inner budget-defying demon, I found myself scrolling around the concert hall seating plan when some automatic typing took over my hand and CLICK - I'd bought two tickets.

I don't like talking money and find it tedious when others do. I'm about to be tedious. The tickets were $195 - that's $400 on tickets, $35 on parking (options are available, but getting away quickly was a necessity), dinner $50 (at the very busy new foodies just past the Opera Bar, day sliding into night behind the silhouette of the bridge and its last climbers), and then $20 for one of those glossy oversized advertorial programmes with the song list buried somewhere in the middle. I resisted the programme till interval - surely a song list on a piece of paper is not too much to ask for $200? Yes, it's too much. And a teeny weeny ice cream. That comes to more than half a thousand dollars.

And meanwhile, Japan is being shifted sideways around the earth, and the horror of what is happening to the helpless is all muddled up with my selfish guilty thoughts of superfunds, a trip we've just booked through Tokyo, K's business dealings in Japan, and here we are swishing around this stunning city on a hot summer's night throwing money up in the air. I know, I know, but I just couldn't stop thinking about it.

The concert platform was nicely dressed, a series of lush red curtains, a black drop, a piano, a full house, and on she comes to rapturous applause, thick dangling curls, winning smile and sparkling eyes (not to mention earrings and bracelet) - Cecilia Bartoli (recently married - make that happily partnered - see comments) and pianist Sergio Ciomei. With the (grammy winning) Sacrificium recital clashing with the ACO with Alex Ross , we were in for a night of 'Romantic Songs'.

She had a lovely persona, radiating a feeling of a generous artist, one certainly about to give a generous programme, with few if any pretensions. The stage mannerisms were controlled and in fact rather subdued mostly, her feet anchored, arms moving with appropriate feeling, and face and eyes living the words. She certainly sang the words. I wish I had been more familiar with her repertoire. This voice is larger than I expected, much larger. She had, at least from where we sat (side box near the stage), no trouble filling what can sometimes be a challenging acoustic space for voice. The middle and chest voice is wonderfully rich and full, warm and embracing. There was no shortage of vocal acrobatics, for which she is justly famous, and while I hesitate to be a nark, the sound can get a bit nasal and as she runs through whatever her glottis is doing with her fast articulations, a hard edge appears, more like running up and down wooden stairs than throwing out a string of vocal pearls, and we know who did that. I actually enjoyed her most when she was off the circus routine and letting flow with long lines, and she certainly has them, well controlled, of gorgeous rich tone.

There was perhaps too much fidgety self awareness between pianist and singer, gushing at each other, and clapping, but it all helped fill in what can be awkward empty spaces between a very long list of songs. And thankfully there was no dress change between halves, rather the earrings and bracelet disappeared in favour of necklace of serious brilliance. More Italian, moving comfortably into French and onto Spanish, she wrapped it up with a showy but slightly underwhelming Rataplan. Then, four encores - "We need to end this concert" - she beamed to a wildly enthusiastic audience and we slipped out thinking we were with the early get-aways. They weren't - they were forming a line for CDs and programmes to be autographed that was already across the foyer and they were still clapping and cheering inside.

Here's one from the second bracket, and what she gave us was even more lovely - languid but never limp - the next phrase only countenanced when the caress of the last was complete.


Anonymous said...

Happy that you loved the recital. Just one little correction from Switzerland - Ms Bartoli is happy wiht her partner but not married. You shouldn't believe the rumours in the blogosphere...

wanderer said...

Thanks Anon - that she/they are happy is more than enough.

marcellous said...

"automatic typing took over my hand and CLICK "
That's quite a sustained burst of automatism, W.

I was tempted but withstood temptation on stingy grounds alone.

I regretted it when I was foolish enough to tell D at the first interval of Partenope on Tuesday that Cecilia was next door. D's face fell. "She's my favourite!" It didn't help that the first act of Partenope hadn't made a very strong impression.

We went into the foyer of the Concert Hall and listened to a bit. D was gallant enought to rally and say that it was OK, he would really have wanted to hear her in a real opera rather than just a recital.

Still, there was some wistful speculation on D's part as we left after Act III (it had improved by then) that the diners still in the Bennelong restaurant might include CB. We refrained from walking across to gawp in.

wanderer said...

Funnily enough, after the concert I was stewing over the fact that it may have been better to have allocated ever dwindling resources to Partenope! If you have time I'd like to hear your impressions, though it is pretty well off the agenda, as is just about everything else not already paid for.