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Bellini: La Sonnambula

3.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 24, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Limited Edition hardcover book: The world's biggest bel canto stars Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Florez in a major new studio recording of Bellini's Romantic masterpiece La sonnambula. The two leading bel canto super stars of today, Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Florez join forces for the first time in the most complete and authentic recording of Bellini's La sonnambula - an eagerly awaited moment in the operatic world and a must have item for all Fans of Bartoli and Florez. This brand new studio recording is the perfect package for Christmas 2008, and is Decca's core classical top priority for the Fall. It is the first ever recording with a 'mezzo-soprano' in the lead role, and the first ever recording with a period instrument orchestra. Many of the cadenzas sung by Cecilia Bartoli are those used by the great 19th Century interpreter of the role, Maria Malibran.

About the Artist

For more than two decades, Cecilia Bartoli has undeniably been one of the leading artists in the field of classical music. All over the world, her new operatic roles, her concert programs and recording projects - in exclusivity with Decca - are expected with great eagerness and curiosity. The exceptional amount of 6 million CDs sold, more than 200 weeks ranking in the international pop charts, numerous Golden Discs, 4 Grammys (USA), 7 Echos and a Bambi (Germany), two Classical Brit Awards (UK), the Victoire de la Musique (France) and many other prestigious awards reflect the immense success of her solo albums "Vivaldi", "Gluck", "Salieri" and "Opera proibita" and that she is firmly established as today's "best selling classical artist".

Thus, Cecilia Bartoli brings Classical Music close to the hearts of millions of people throughout the world. Apart from that, she is proud that through their popularity, her projects have caused a wide-spread re-evaluation and rediscovery of the neglected composers and forgotten repertoire which she puts up for discussion.

It is not surprising that Herbert von Karajan, Daniel Barenboim and Nikolaus Harnoncourt were among the first conductors Cecilia Bartoli worked with. They noticed her talent at a very early stage when she had barely completed her vocal studies with her parents in her home-town Rome. Since then, many further conductors, pianists and orchestras of highest renown have been her regular partners. In recent years, her work has begun to focus on collaborations with the most significant period instrument orchestras (Akademie für Alte Musik, Les Arts Florissants, Concentus Musicus Wien, Freiburger Barockorchester, Il Giardino Armonico, Kammerorchester Basel, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Orchestra La Scintilla). Projects with orchestras where Cecilia Bartoli assumes the overall artistic responsibility have become increasingly important to her and were crowned by the jointly developed and performed programmes with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Cecilia Bartoli regularly sings in the most important concert halls in Europe, the United States and Japan. Her stage appearances include prestigious opera houses and festivals such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Salzburg Festival and the Zürich Opera House, where she has presented many of her operatic roles for the first time. Most recently, her roles have included Rossini's Fiorilla in "Il Turco in Italia" at Covent Garden and two Handelian heroines, Cleopatra (in "Giulio Cesare" with Marc Minkowski) and Semele (with William Christie) in Zurich.

In 2007/08 Cecilia Bartoli devotes her time to the early 19th century - the era of Italian Romanticism and Belcanto - and especially the legendary singer Maria Malibran. Her 200th birthday on 24th March 2008 was marked by a historical day in Malibran's birthplace Paris: Cecilia Bartoli sang 3 concerts in one day as the centre-piece of a Malibran-Marathon at Salle Pleyel - collaborating with Lang Lang, Vadim Repin, Adam Fischer and Myung-Whun Chung - while the City of Paris showed her Barcelona Concert on a big screen outside the Hôtel de Ville, where Cecilia Bartoli's mobile Malibran Museum was stationed to honour that special day. Further bicentenary events were the CD "Maria", the DVD "The Barcelona Concert/Malibran Rediscovered", extensive concert tours as well as operatic appearances as Cenerentola, Sonnambula and Halevy's Clari - in a Malibran-opera which had not been performed since 1829.

Cecilia Bartoli has been endowed with the Italian Knighthood and is an "Accademico effettivo" of Santa Cecilia, Rome, a French "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres" and an "Honorary Member" of the Royal Academy of Music, London.

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Product Details

  • Performer: Ildebrando D'Arcangelo
  • Orchestra: Orchestra La Scintilla
  • Conductor: Alessandro De Marchi
  • Composer: Vincenzo Bellini
  • Audio CD (February 24, 2009)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: L'Oiseau-Lyre (Decca)
  • ASIN: B001DXF73I
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,908 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I initially wrote another review of this recording which I have since deleted because I've learned a lot from some of the positive and negative reactions to this recording. Major critics of music periodicals from around the world have been equally divided in their opinions ---- ranging from severe admonishment to euphoric ecstasy. The fact that there has been so much controversy about it would seem to me to bode well for it's remaining in the catalogue for a good length of time. The issue of Cecilia Bartoli singing Amina is not all that surprising to me.Frederica von Stade, a lyric mezzo, performed this role with great success, I believe in Dallas, Texas, as well in some other places. I myself years ago heard Marilyn Horne, a much heavier mezzo, perform the final aria and cabaletta at a concert in Chicago. Moreover, I've read in books that mezzos frequently appeared in the role of Amina during and after Bellini's time. Lastly, it is a fact that there are virtually no E flat written in Bellini's score. These top E flats were later added by really high coloratura sopranos like Sembrich, Galli-Curci, Pons, etc. Then, of course, came Callas, who, while retaining the top E flats, interpolated some downward Malibran type of cadenzas that went down to low A flat bellow middle C - one can hear this very distinctly on the Bernstein La Scala performance of 1955. In her performances at La Scala and Cologne in 1957, she eliminated these downward dips. Then of course, came Sutherland, who sang everything high and upward. So -- it is probable that there are many people who are so used to hearing "Sonnambula" peppered with high E flats, that they are bound to be "let down" when they don't hear them.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
The fact that the price for this set on Amazon has fallen from over $60 last autumn to less than $20 now speaks eloquently for the quality of this recording. I purchased this some months ago from Amazon UK. Here is my review from the UK web site:

I greatly admire Miss Bartoli and have most of her recordings. In this one she isn't up to her usual standard. She's usually such a thoughtful and intelligent artist that she may have simply spent too much time thinking about this role. To say that it is studied would be kind. "Contrived" would be a more accurate term. I've not heard so many gasps and gulps on a recording since the last time I listened to Richard Tucker. (Sorry, Tucker fans.) Miss Bartoli's singing here is overtly, and overly, emotive. The result is a porcelain-doll preciousness that I find distasteful.

I'll also level some criticism at the erratic conducting of maestro de Marchi. His tempi at times have a lugubrious slowness that ill fits the gentle pathos of this opera. At other places there are sudden accelerations that almost jar the teeth out of one's head. The first act chorus "In Elvezia non v'ha rosa" starts at a pleasant pace but the speed nearly doubles at the words "e innocente tortorella." Granted, I'm looking at the standard Ricordi score, not the critical edition on which this recording is based, and there's no presto subito, or even accelerando, instruction here.

These points are too bad given the otherwise high quality of this recording. I agree with the other American reviewer that Juan Diego Florez is probably the best Elvino on record. But, who buys a recording of "Sonnambula" for the Elvino? Like another reviewer, I agree that Miss Bartoli and Mr. Florez don't blend well together.
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Format: Audio CD
The two preceding reviewers are spot on in singling out the usually wonderful Bartoli - here in the title role of Bellini's sleepwalker Amina - as a major disappointment. Glaringly absent from her performance is the least hint of spontaneity, of any "fine carelessness," of what one of her great predecessors in the role, Joan Sutherland, dubbed a necessary "recklessness." All of Bartoli's phrasings sound far too pre-planned, with odd pauses, gulps, and frequently aspirated fiorature. In short, her performance is sadly both undersung and overacted.

Juan Diego Florez, as Elvino, is the recording's standout, far fresher voiced than Bartoli here, and probably unmatched in this role these days.
Unfortunately, his bright timbre to my ear does not blend nicely with Bartoli's huskier one, with the result that their duets are not especially memorable. On the other hand, as another reviewer's already indicated, in passages where Florez sings largely solo, the recording has its moments of greatest distinction.

D'Arcangelo is a notable Count Rodolfo, but Gemma Bertagnolli as Lisa is lackluster, in no way approaching, say, the astonishingly high standard for this part set by the soprano Dilber in the 1992 Amsterdam Concertgebouw recording.

The special interest of Bartoli's performance lies in its being the first one recorded by a mezzo-soprano, thus calling to mind such famous 19th century predecessors in the role as Pasta and Malibran. The recording's value, though, is more that of just an attempted "historical" reconstruction rather than a grand achievement in its own right. Admirers of Bellini's music lacking such "historical" curiosity would do better listening to the Callas, Sutherland, or Dessay versions of the opera.
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