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3.6 3
by Cecilia Bartoli
It has been a long three years since Cecilia Bartoli's previous release, Maria, brought nineteenth century coloratura Maria Malibran into the public consciousness. Decca's Sacrificium -- which reunites Bartoli with expert period band Il Giardino Armonico for the first time since 1999's


It has been a long three years since Cecilia Bartoli's previous release, Maria, brought nineteenth century coloratura Maria Malibran into the public consciousness. Decca's Sacrificium -- which reunites Bartoli with expert period band Il Giardino Armonico for the first time since 1999's The Vivaldi Album -- certainly makes clear that it was well worth the wait. In keeping with her long series of themed collections of opera arias, in this release Bartoli explores literature associated with the long lost vocal range of the castrati, male singers who were surgically altered in puberty in order to retain the high end of their voices into adulthood. The outlawing of castrati in Italy in 1870 brought this vicious practice to an end, but it also condemned two centuries' worth of operatic and sacred music to obscurity owing to the unsuitability of ordinary voices to sing in this special range; since then, a number of male countertenors have come to grips with it, with varying degrees of success, and an increasing number of females -- usually altos -- have been adopting castrato literature, as well. Bartoli -- a mezzo-soprano -- has got an amazing top end, well demonstrated in the earlier Maria release, but here she exhibits the bottom of her range to stunning effect; at one point when she dips down low in Francesco Araia's aria "Cadrò, ma qual si mira," Bartoli sounds like a man. While there are plenty of male singers who can approximate female voice, for it to go the other way around is indeed rare. Also rare are the 12 selections on the main disc, every one of them a premiere recording of some kind. Bartoli has long established herself as an advocate for neglected or little known literature, and there is such a wealth of unused castrato literature that coming by such material probably wasn't difficult, but it also seems the album's producers were quite careful in finding examples that were representative of the theme, musically challenging for Bartoli and of generally excellent quality; even Il Giardino Armonico gets a great workout in "Nobil onda," an aria from Nicola Porpora's 1723 opera "Adelaide." It is Porpora who emerges from this material as the champion composer for castrati, which is gratifying; an increasing number of Porpora releases in the times leading up to Sacrificium makes clear that he was one of the greats among Western composers and it's nice to see a major label like Decca pay some homage to him. However, Sacrificium's compilers have not lost sight of the unique talents of the star performer; no one would accuse Porpora's "Usignolo sventurato" from the opera "Siface" as being a great aria, with its limited range and texture. However, Bartoli's sensuous delivery and bold characterization of the piece makes something very special out of it, a major highlight of the program. Bartoli's voice is of a quality that cuts through the veils of history and delivers this obscure music with absolute perfection; Decca's Sacrificium should easily please all comers.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Matthew Gurewitsch
Bartoli runs the gamut from unbridled fireworks (in the forgotten Francesco Araia's "Cadrò, ma qual si mira," described in the notes as "probably the most difficult Baroque aria ever written") to exquisite delicacy (Porpora's "Usignolo sventurato," which mimics the nightingale).... The personalities, alliances, rivalries and social milieu commemorated on the CD are vibrantly alive in Ms. Bartoli's imagination, and she bring them to life in the music.
Gramophone - Patrick O'Connor
[Bartoli's] virtuoso skills are given full rein in the display arias here, especially those by Porpora such as the one that opens the recital.... It is in the reflective, slow arias that Bartoli shows a greater sympathy with the sensual mannerisms of the age.
Los Angeles Times - James Taylor
The plaintive numbers in Sacrificium are rich with pathos, but it's not a somber album. There are wildly frenzied songs like "Chi temea Giove regnante" where the Neapolitan composer Leonardo Vinci treats the human voice like Jimi Hendrix treated his electric guitar.
The Guardian - Fiona Maddocks
Addictive, ear-busting arias, each a miniature aural explosion of emotion.... Il Giardino Armonico play like the wind. But Bartoli is the quivering, vibratile star and the turbulent opening, "Come nave" ("Like a ship amid the waves") leaves you giddy. More reflective numbers, such as Graun's "Where is my love?" strike you dumb with their beauty. Altogether an exhilarating if exhausting business, fantastic stuff safest in small quantities.
National Public Radio - Tom Huizenga
As usual, Bartoli pours her heart and beautiful voice into the music, singing with tempestuous, rapid-fire fioriture one moment and languorous, long-breathed lines of melody the next.
The Times (U.K.) - Geoff Brown
Dusty stuff? Not a bit. Bartoli's voltage in coloratura display is unmatched.

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Related Subjects


  1. La Morte d'Abel, opera: Part 1. Quel buon pastor son io
  2. Farnace, opera: Chi temea Giove regnante
  3. Adriano in Siria, opera: Act 2. Scene 6. Deh, tu bel Dio d'amore ... Ov'è i
  4. Adelaide, opera: Nobil onda
  5. Zenobia in Palmira, opera: Act 2. Scene 7. Qual farfalla
  6. Semiramide riconosciuta, opera (1st version): Act 3. Scene 4. In braccio a mille furie
  7. Demofoonte, opera: Act 3. Scene 4. Misero pargoletto
  8. Siface, opera in 3 acts: Act 2. Scene 14. Usignolo sventurato
  9. Germanico in Germania, opera: Act 2. Scene 8. Parto, ti lascio, o cara
  10. Berenice, opera: Cadrò, ma qual si mira
  11. Sedecia, oratorio: Profezie, di me diceste
  12. Siface, opera in 3 acts: Act 2. Scene 4. Come nave in mezzo all'onde

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Sacrificium (Cecilia Bartoli / Il Giardino Armonico / Antonini) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing music, incredible vocals. It's a beautiful CD.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago