COMPOSERS: Berlioz &Ravel,Bizet,Delibes,Viardot
WORKS: Songs by Bizet, Delibes, Viardot, Berlioz, Ravel
PERFORMER: Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo-soprano) Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 452 667-2
After seven years and eight recital discs restricted to Mozart, Rossini and Italian songs, Bartoli has finally extended her repertoire. It’s a departure that’s been worth the wait, for even without the dazzling coloratura she first made her name with, she proves outstanding.
Her voice is so sheerly beautiful, so effortlessly modulated, and she infuses the songs with such delight that the effect is irresistible. These songs may be French, but the mood is predominantly Spanish: Delibes’s ‘Les filles de Cadix’; Bizet’s ‘Ouvre ton coeur’ and ‘Tarantelle’; three songs by the legendary 19th-century prima donna Pauline Viardot; and Berlioz’s ‘Zaïde’, with its castanets. Bartoli injects them with a fiery swagger that is utterly seductive. Her Carmen, when it comes, will be sensational.
The disc’s final section is devoted to Ravel. Again the atmosphere is exotic: the ‘Vocalise-étude (en forme de habanera)’; Deux mélodies hébraïques; the Greek ‘Tripatos’; and the Chants populaires. These provide a formidable challenge, requiring the singer to switch between the Limousin and Galician dialects, Italian, Yiddish and Hebrew, but Bartoli handles them deftly. And with Myung-Whun Chung’s finely articulated, incisively rhythmic account of the piano parts, the result is enchanting. Claire Wrathall