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Bartoli sings with the erotic rhythm of lovemaking

Recital of Mozart arias with
The Vienna Chamber Orchestra,
Conducted by Gyrgy Fischer.
London Records, 430 513-2.

By Jonathan Richmond
Advisory Board

I no longer know what I am or what I'm doing,

Now I'm burning, now I'm made of ice...

Bartoli's voice rises and falls to illustrate the intensity of this impossible infatuation. Her manner of holding back builds up an almost unbearable tension; her breathless climaxes carry the listener away. The tone is of exquisite beauty as well as versatility: the result is pure ecstasy.

"Voi che sapete," the next selection on the disc, is filled with love-lost longing, with palpitations sounded out in the strings adding to the piquancy.

I don't understand it.

I have a feeling full of desire,

which now is pleasure,

now is torment... .

I sigh and I groan

without wishing to;

I flutter and tremble

without knowing why.

The concert aria, "Chi sa, chi sa, qual sia," K. 582, serves as a showcase for Bartoli's vivid and agile coloratura; it flows into the finely-modulated and suggestively-sung "E'amore un ladroncello," from Cosi fan Tutte in which Dorabella naughtily sings of love as a "little thief."

The concert aria, "Alma grande e nobil core," brings a change of pace. Bartoli delivers the textual themes of fidelity, cruelty, and revenge with clarity and power, creating a characterization of seriousness and stature. Orchestral playing here is quite dramatic, the choppy heartstrings sounded on violins aided and abetted by the telling coloration of the winds.

We return now to Mozart's world of balmy love. Zerlina's aria "Vedrai, carina," from Don Giovanni, in which Zerlina comforts Masetto, is sung soothingly, but with waves of sensuality continually carrying it forward. "Deh vieni, non tardar," from The Marriage of Figaro is given especially fine characterization. In this aria, Susanna pretends to be infatuated with the Count, just to annoy Figaro. The piece progresses with a deliberate rhythm which, while beautiful, suggests elements of deceit.

Three arias from La Clemenza di Tito come next. The ambience of coolly bubbling clarinets and smoothly moving strings creates the perfect backdrop for Bartoli's sterling singing in Sesto's aria "Parto, parto, ma tu, ben mio." Bartoli's voice is full of mournfulness for "Deh, per questo istante solo," in which Sesto laments his treachery towards Tito. The singing is fine, sorrow projected in tones of pure rapture. Vitelia's recitative leading to "Non pi di fiori," is crustily sung, heightening the pathos when the aria itself arrives. How soft the strings, here! How ravishing the voice! How infectious the rhythm: the sound of the heart! The basset horn obligato played by Peter Schmidl, which illuminates the singing here, is a particular delight.

The disc ends with the concert aria "Ch'io mi scordi di te?" Fiery with drama, Bartoli builds on each element of the complexity of this piece, her voice sowing compelling imagery of intermingling themes of love, pain, and death.

With singing of this unusual caliber and sensitivity and an orchestral performance by the Vienna Chamber Orchestra under Gyrgy Fischer, which is itself dramatic while delicate, this new recording is a must buy. If you've wondered about the enigma of the God-sent but humanly-frail Mozart projected in Amadeus, here is an opportunity to wonder some more, with music of eternal bliss and a humanity that plants the Godly in each of us.

Note: Cecilia Bartoli will be performing in Symphony Hall on February 21. The Tech Performing Arts Series has discount tickets available through the Technology Community Association.