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Cecilia Bartoli: Sacrificium
Cecilia Bartoli
Cecilia Bartoli: Sacrificium
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (3) - Disc #2

"The age of the castratos was one of the most dazzling and remarkable in European music history. Seldom has there ever been such a complete fusion of sensuousness and splendor, form and content, poetry and music, and, abo...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Cecilia Bartoli
Title: Cecilia Bartoli: Sacrificium
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Decca
Original Release Date: 1/1/2009
Re-Release Date: 10/26/2009
Album Type: Deluxe Edition
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 028947815211


Album Description
"The age of the castratos was one of the most dazzling and remarkable in European music history. Seldom has there ever been such a complete fusion of sensuousness and splendor, form and content, poetry and music, and, above all, such a perfection of vocal virtuosity, as was achieved in the glory days of the Baroque era. The legendary art of the castratos continues to exert its fascination even today, and despite the great human sacrifice it exacted, a new assessment of this extraordinary period is surely justified." - Cecilia Bartoli Cecilia Bartoli uncovers the extraordinary and cruel world of the `Castrati' and sings the glorious music they inspired. The all-new album consists almost entirely of world-premiere recordings of some of the most virtuosic music ever written for the human voice. The arias on the album are drawn from the works of Nicola Porpora (1686-1768), Antonio Caldara (c. 1670-1736), Francesco Araia (1709-1770), Carl Heinrich Graun (c. 1703-1759), Leonardo Leo (1694-1744), Leonardo Vinci (1696-1730), Riccardo Brosc hi (c. 1658-1756) and Geminiano Giacomello (c. 1692- 1740). After extensive research Bartoli has produced not only a new recording, but also a comprehensive study of the castrati and their time period through two lavishly produced and illustrated articles included in the deluxe package. Sacrificium marks the first collaboration of Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini, and Bartoli since their Grammy® Award-winning The Vivaldi Album ten years ago. This deluxe package is a hardback book (12 x 14 cm) including 2 CDs of music including 11 world-premiere recordings. The extensive booklet includes two essays on the castrati: "Evviva il coltellino!" ("Long live the the little knife") & "Castrato Compendium" (a 108-page "A-Z" of the castrati). The entire project features lavish illustrations and photos throughout along with an additional 44-page libretto.

CD Reviews

Dennis Figueroa | Orange County, CA | 10/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

""There I heard the famous thing from Italy, it looks from all the world like a man, though they say it is not. The voice to be sure is neither man's nor woman's but it is more melodious than either; and it warbled so divinely that while I listened I thought myself in paradise". Lydia Milford, 18th century opera goer, after hearing the castrato Tenducci sing.

At long last, Bartoli, who spurred the gold rush to baroque excavations, produces the album dedicated to the opera idols that entranced the 18th century. No audience can be in a greater state of excitement than hers.

This repertoire is spirited, and captures the exuberance as well as the decadence of the castrato music style. Bartoli asserts this is the most difficult music yet she has ever recorded. This is indeed the case. Bartoli is once again back in her medium, and does not disappoint. Her execution is dynamic and virtuosic.

The arias d'agilita are Bartoli's greatest stunts, and prove her extraordinary vocal athleticism. She is the vocal matador of the 21st century. She rides high on famous war-horses of the baroque era which she has festooned and adorned with lavishly embroidered vocal treatments. No furore is indomitable enough that she can't tame. Her bravuras are florid at the exultant top of bliss. It is difficult to imagine how a castrato could have possibly topped her execution.

The album cadence reaches its zenith in "cadro, ma qual si mira" not just for the amazing show of singing prowess but also for the instrumental figurations that the music sets to the text. Here she brings it on. Her melismas are hypnotically raised to circling patterns and whipped to lung bursting lengths. Her singing is fluent, and just as a note is about to run its course, she ricochets it back into life and feisty scala trillatas that end with the same force as they begin. No wonder arias like "cadro" have been vaulted for hundreds of years. ..They are almost impossible! In the same category is also "son qual nave", another famous war-horse that she has been contemplating for a while. Here the astounding messa di voce of her other version found in YouTube is missing; but her attention to the nuances of the ornate passages, and the finesse with which she bounces off the notes in the da capo more than make up for it. The aria "Chi Temea Giove" is perhaps another concerto for larynx, but also exemplifies the excess that made the castrati go out of style. This aria has the works: thunder, horns, more thunder, boisterous orchestration, burst and sprints of rapid coloratura, and yet all this pomp does not amount to more than a vain display of vocalism. Music like this might have signaled not just the obsolescence of itself but disuse of its singers, the castrati.

The pathetic airs have the quicksand and risky pitfalls for a mezzo, even like Bartoli. Their emotional pathos was written and tailored for and by a castrato whose range negotiated effortlessly the low contralto to the high soprano. Excluding "usignolo sventurato", these arias require the lyrical rigor of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater except that here the singer has to do it all by herself in handling the two registers. Though Bartoli strives to reach the voluptuous, warmer, deeper tones, her sweet victory is just as elusive as the battle that never conquers. Nonetheless, hers is a tour de force not to be missed.

Considering the subject matter of this album, the cover is artistically wild but so were the castrati and the audiences' fascination with their androgyny. In an ironic twist of history, these super stars, who fulfilled the church's God-sent ban on songstresses, heralded the supremacy of the soprano voice. They pioneered the grand roles of emperors, warriors, goddesses, and heroines, and ultimately the first burlesque as drag queens. In the end, and just as God draws straight with crooked lines, secular opera raised its curtains to women who in turn seized these heroic roles dressed as drag kings, and the era of the prima donna was dawned. From Cuzzoni to Bartoli, the legacy of the castrati lives on, and through their sacrificium, the beauty of their last breath endures the test of time.

Bartolome Mesa Gil | Malaga, SPAIN | 10/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Another daring undertake by superdiva Cecilia Bartoli, this time literally resurrecting very obscure and extremely difficult arias sung by some of the most famous castrati in the XVIIIth Century. Of course she is not the first to record a whole album with this kind of material, but this one stands out for its rarity and extreme demands regarding breath control, coloratura display and expressive utterance. Apparently all the pieces but one in the first disc of this two-CD special edition are world premiere recordings and some are very fine indeed, others could have remained forgotten without any great loss. Bartoli sings all of them with her trademarked enthusiasm (sometimes too much of a good thing), bravely and exhibiting mostly impressive coloratura, but the sound is not always good, and sometimes to my ears quite unpleasant. There is no way we can be sure how they sounded when sung by the castrati, but I don't think they produced some of the sounds heard here. At one point, with no disrespect, it seems like a caricature of a hen trying to sing. The bonus disc, with three better known arias is far more pleasing to the ears. I'm happy I bought the disc and I will be coming back to some of its tracks often. Others could be interesting to explore a bit further. The rest, well, could have remained gathering dust. Some things are best forgotten. So much worthy repertoire out there and life being so short...

PS. The 2 discs are housed in a beautifully produced and quite thick book, as we have come to expect from Bartoli releases, this one being the most lavish yet. With plenty of information in an illustrated castrati dictionary in three languages (no Spanish, although ironically the record has been produced "with the generous support" -it says at the back- of Junta de Castilla y León), a good essay, a full libretto of arias sung and lots of pictures of Bartoli, or to be exact of her head attached (via Photoshop) to kind of classical marble sculptures, the point of which escapes me."
Bartoli does it again - and better than ever
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 10/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"How does one even begin to review such an album as this? With the recording industry in basically a shambles, little attention paid to serious classical vocalists, this has been, so far, a year of remarkable releases for which this one goes to the top of a very distinguished pile.

Bartoli has crossed a line most unique here in sharing her magnificent obsession with the castrati of the Italian baroque. The very title of the album itself is awe inspiring and thought provoking. While the very notion of castration is abhorrent and screams against nature without it some of the most amazing, most beautiful music ever composed would have most likely never been composed. Sacrificium is about an apt a name for this project as there could possibly be.

Through 15 selections, Bartoli - brilliantly partnered by Il Giardino Armonico and Giovanni Antonini - takes us on a voyage - a journey of remarkable musicmaking that is exhilarating as it is exhausting, as joyous as it is tragic and as intellectually stimulating as it is emotional. We begin the journey an aria by the nearly forgotten Porpora, Come nave in mezzo all'onde, a virtuostic exercise that shows almost every baroque trick compacted into a whirlwind lasting just 4 minutes. Bartoli sails through with an energy that is matched by the spirited ensemble and what a thrill it is to hear brass instruments play with this kind of fierce "to the devil" kind of tone and energy. Thrilling seems too gentle a word for this kind of performance.

Immediately things settle back down to earth only to rise upwards again in an entirely different direction as Bartoli and the musicians offer an inspired reading of the prayer Profezie, di me diceste from Caldara's "Sedecia." The final line "Let the moment that ends my days bring everlasting peace," captured with a sound that is both captivating and heartfelt. Bartoli shows us (again) that she can hold us, can dazzle us and move us with music of such quiet gentility every bit as she can with the coloratura showpieces. Her range in this music is never less than astonishing and while her top remains bright and tightly coiled, her singing from the lower voice has never been more attractive as can be heard in these slower arias.

Throughout this set Bartoli captures our imagination and spirit and instantly transports us back centuries going to one of the most exciting - and dangerous - eras in music history. Her trills, roulades, pinpoint accuracy, sense of line, attention to details both musical and textual reveal a commitment that is never less than total and what a supreme joy it is to spend time with this set. The album is fiercely and attractively packaged, its two CDs wedged on either side of 150+ pages of essays, notes, photographs both disturbing and stunning, including the 100 page "Castrato Compendium" - an alphabetically listed mini-encyclopedia of all things castrati.

Typically I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite moment from so extraordinary a set, but having now listened to it several times - at least for the time being - will nominate Porpora's aria ""Parto, ti lascio o cara" from his 1732 opera "Germanico in Germania." One of the slower paced arias (with a fierce, short-burst of a "B" section), it is as beautiful and perfectly sung a piece of music as I can ever recall hearing.

Lovers of baroque opera, of the beauty of the human voice as well as those fascinated by undiscovered musical treasures should all have good reason to rejoice. The sacrifice has been made, and we're all the richer for it.