Fascinating Repertoire, With Delicious Performances.
The first known indoor theatre, Palladio's final achievement, completed in 1580, Teatro Olimpico in the northern Italian city of Vicenza becomes the sheltering site for this tremendously pleasing recital by acclaimed lyric coloratura mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, accompanied by the masterful pianist from France, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and an ensemble that specializes in previously uncovered pieces from the late Baroque musical era, Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca. The latter group is on board for the five opening selections, while Thibaudet is at a splendidly toned and tuned Steinway during the succeeding twenty, along with an additional five encores to please an alert and well-behaved audience that plainly is willing to disregard less than comfortable seating in order to enjoy the carmine-gowned youthful singer's eloquent renditions of infrequently heard items honoured by her increasingly hale voice. Stylishly directed and edited for video in tasteful fashion by Brian Large, the film's camera eye frequently focuses upon the elegant theatre itself, exquisitely designed by Palladio to late 16th century aesthetic touchstones of balance, and cunning application of space, having as well an ancillary advantage of crystalline acoustical quality that serves well the highly popular Bartoli, whose musicological scrutiny of lesser known Baroque compositions is apparent throughout the program. A first-rate potpourri is offered by the adept recitalist and Rossini specialist, not so much being accompanied by Thibaudet but rather partnered with him for an ensemble described by this repetitive collaborator of Bartoli as one involving conversation, i.e., he offering a phrase, she in turn answering. Among highlights of this sublime production at its historic setting are: the opening three pieces by Giulio Caccini; a deceptively emotional performance of Handel's Lascia la Spina; Un Moto di Gioia from Mozart's Le Nozze Di Figaro; a strikingly rendered Mio Ben Ricordati (Schubert); Berlioz's Zaïde, for which the mezzo displays her competence with castanets; an intense Amore e Morte (Donizetti); and amid the encores - - Voi Che Sapete (Mozart's Figaro again); the lovely Caro Mio Ben (Giordano); Canto Negro (Montsalvatge); and a showpiece of Bartoli>the Séguedille from Bizet's opera Carmen wherein she adds a few flamenco steps. A gratifying addition within both the VHS and DVD versions is an informative booklet that contains a valuable description of this musical event, contributed by British music reviewer Andrew Stewart. In sum, this is a high-grade production in all respects.
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