Sunday, November 22, 2009

La Bartoli at the Concertgebouw!

Concertgebouw Amsterdam

Il Giardino Armonico, cond. by Giovanni Antonini

Programme (vocally speaking only, the fair amount of musical intermezzos were not listed anywhere and remain unidentifiable)

1. Vinci ‘Cervo in bosco’
2. Broschi ‘Chi non sente al mio dolore’
3. Porpora ‘In braccio a mille furie’
4. Porpora ‘Parto, ti lascio, o cara’
5. Porpora ‘Come nave in mezzo all’onde’
6. Leo ‘Qual farfalla’
7. Araia ‘Cadrò, ma qual si mira’
8. Porpora ‘Usignolo sventurato’
9. Graun ‘Misero pargoletto’
10. Caldara ‘Quel buon pastor son io’
11. Vinci ‘Quanto invidio la sorte … Chi vive amante’
12. Porpora ‘Nobil onda’
13. Handel ‘Lascia la Spina'
14. Broschi ‘son qual nave’

This was my very first Cecilia Bartoli concert and to be honest, I was kind of nervous. Bartoli holds a special place in my musical affections, simply because she was probably the first singer I ever consciously heard and could identify (this may have had something to do with the parental units being fans). At any rate, I was nervous because I was afraid her voice wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I had read it was pretty small, and since my seats were second row all the way to the side (and thus not directly in an optimal area projection-wise), I was kind of afraid I wouldn’t be able to hear a thing. So imagine my joy at discovering that my seats did not turn out to mar my hearing of La Bartoli’s voice at all and that her singing surpassed my expectations!

This may have in part been influenced by the amounts of rehearsal time that had gone into this concert tour: at a certain point, Antonini brought down the volume of the orchestra to almost a mere whisper, which allowed Bartoli to give us a beautiful, audible and sustained pianissimo. This is what I can only call the fruit of perfect collaboration.

The gems of the evening were, to me, the slower pieces. Although the faster arias showcased Bartoli’s technical prowess fully (and that of the castrati the pieces were written for), I tend to find that they, in some cases, display more ‘show’ than ‘substance’. I was, on the other hand, deeply moved by the more slow, sweet and slightly melancholy pieces such as ‘Quel buon pastor son io’ – my personal favourite of the Sacrificium repertoire.

The orchestra also gave us some musical intermezzos while Bartoli was adjusting the wardrobe (we’ll come to that in a minute…), and another highlight of the evening was to be found when Antonini laid down his baton in favour of a flute and performed like he was a rock star!

Speaking of the wardrobe – I absolutely loved it. No fancy designer dresses for La Bartoli here, but costumes that actually matched the theme of the concert. She started out in some sort of cape with hat to match, and removed props as the concert went on, ending up in black trousers, a white shirt with frills and riding boots. That is, until the very end, when she had done a very speedy wardrobe change into something else - an orange peacock-like dress that wasn’t a dress entirely since the black trousers and riding boots were still present. This probably reflected the effeminate image of the castrati, and of course ended the concert with a bang. Anyway, see my photos below for an impression.

So, the concert was absolutely spectacular, one of those rare ‘you really had to be there’ kind of nights. Only after a couple of days did the smile that got stuck on my face because of this concert disappear. So, if Bartoli’s up for an Amsterdam concert again next year (and I’m hoping she is!), I will certainly be there!

Afterwards, there was a signing session with an extremely long line – luckily I found myself in the middle of it, so I did manage to catch the last tram and train. It was really wonderful to see how much Cecilia appreciates her fans. We were told she would not be shaking hands due to H1N1, but when she saw two young fans (early teens), she jumped up and kissed them! I also had a brief chat with her (in English, it’s amazing how well she speaks that language nowadays) and she dedicated my Sacrificium CD to me personally and signed a photograph of her I had brought. Maestro Antonini also signed my Sacrificium CD, and I left for home very much a happy girl.

Rating: 5/5 (if only I could give 6/5)

Cecilia wearing her more masculine castrato costume

Cecilia in her more feminine outfit

About to start singing the Handel encore

Cecilia and Maestro Antonini signing

And my copy of Sacrificium!

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree with your review - you just had to be there. Love the photographs, you were very close to where I was.

    Wish I had stopped for the signing but I thought it would take hours. Shame but the memory of the music stays with me.