Cecilia Bartoli in Händel’s Semele, Zürich

This is unfortunately not a review. I wish. But, no, I have not been to Zürich to see Cecilia Bartoli as Semele. I wish I had since I love la Bartoli and since I know this wonderful production which I saw some years ago in Cologne.
It was my first experience of baroque opera on stage and I must admit I only went because my friend Carsten dragged me there. And I was completely swept away by director Robert Carsen’s inventions and the wonderful music.

Semele was one of Jupiter’s lovers (mother to his son Dionysos), who was tricked by the jealous Juno (Jupiter’s wife) into asking the supreme god to see him in all his glory. Which kills her since she is only human.
In this staging Juno is a most true copy of Queen Elizabeth II both when she is dressed up with the crown jewels and when she is wearing her Mackintosh and out with her pocket torch to wake Somnus.
It’s a very humourous portrayal and that goes for the whole cast.

Juno, Iris in Semele

The Opernhaus Zürich has been generous enough to put some video and audio clips on their web page.
I put a little bit here to let you see what it’s like. Semele sings about Endless pleasure, endless joy and it certainly looks like it is fun being in Jupiter’s hands. And then Juno (Birgit Remmer) sending away her secretary Iris, the rainbow(!), (Isabel Rey) in Iris, hence away.

I can really recommend seeing the whole video by going here. Especially the clip from the aria Myself I shall adore is hilarious. Juno visits Semele disguised as her sister Ino. She paints her future bright by letting her try on the crown jewels. Semele seems very content when she looks in the mirror.

Bartoli Semele

I remember a marvellous remark Carsten made back in Cologne – that her reflection as she adores herself in the mirror is also in the music as echoes. I love that idea.

I think it’s interesting that Cecilia Bartoli is taking on soprano roles. She was always more a soprano than a mezzo to me.

My other friend Francisco is going to love all this, so here is one last picture for him:

Jupiter Semele Bartoli

/anna

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February 22, 2007. Music, Opera, Photos, YouTube.

9 Comments

  1. Walter de Geus replied:

    Hello Opera friend,
    For me it is a mystery that you and a lot of other people appreciate the singing of Bartoli.
    You can see and hear that her breathing technique is awful(to high)and that her sound above piano is terrible.This has nothing to do with singing.
    Everybody who knows and appreciate the singing of Teresa Berganza, or nowadays Sonia Ganassi, Anna Bonitatibus,Marina Comparato, Manuela Custer, Vesselina Kasarova, Elina Garanca or Joyce DiDonato, understands what real singing is.
    The massive (commercial) propaganda for Bartoli is a bad case for the reeel art of singing.Walter de Geus

  2. confidentialattachees replied:

    Of course taste differs and I know that not all are fans of Ms Bartoli. That would after all be rather weird… But besides from that I think statements such as yours is in favour of absolute truths. I have never been a believer when it comes to that kind of truths nor a fan of black/white judgments. How can Cecilia Bartoli’s sound have nothing to do with singing? I think that is tending on the absurd and actually quite rude. Sorry about that.

    On the other hand – I find both Elina Garanca and Vesselina Kasarova stunning and wonderful. I’m sorry not to know the others you mention (besides Berganza – but let’s stay within the contemporary sphere), but I will check them out! Thanks for the tip.

    /anna

  3. Smorg replied:

    Very classy reply, Anna. Thanks for the excellent post, too. Sorry you couldn’t catch that show in Zurich.

    I’m a big Kasarova fan…and Garanca sure has a most gorgeous voice. Have yet to catch Sra Bartoli live, tho. Hopefully will one day.

    Cheers,
    Epinions Smorg :o)

  4. confidentialattachees replied:

    Thank you for your comment, Smorg.
    Kasarova is truely wonderful and she might be a more true mezzo than Bartoli who seems to be turning into more of a soprano these days. Kasarova has that deep, dark sound that I love in a mezzo. Perhaps “alto” would be more appropriate.
    /anna

  5. Smorg replied:

    You’re right there, Anna. Kasarova’s lower register is really something to hear. It can sound really different from the rest of the voice at times (I think a lot has to do with the recording mic not being able to handle it. Heard live, the register breaks aren’t so obvious)… and has gotten even more imposing in the last few years, I think. I guess she won’t be doing the high mezzo roles like Romeo or Idamante anymore, since her real asset really is in that chest register and she sure knows how to use it dramatically. When I first played the DVD of Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria from Zurich, my jaws dropped to the ground and shattered at how comfortable she is down in that contralto role.

    Cecilia Bartoli has such a big vocal range! I quite like her in the Met broadcast of ‘Figaro’ when she sang Susanna, and she sings some high soprano arias in that Mozart arias DVD thingy. I don’t really enjoy her machine gun coloratura much, but I really appreciate her digging up the long lost arias of Vivaldi and Salieri for her recitals. We are so blessed with so many wonderful mezzos around these days, ay? :o)

    Cheers,
    Smorg

  6. elvira replied:

    a

  7. Elvira replied:

    Good evening.
    I had the great luck to see C Bartoli in Zurich performing Semele. She is my favorite singer. Of course she is not perfect, her voice is sometimes “harsh”, but I think she really has something at the musical point of view. But I also think she has to work harder to resolve some technical problems. Her voice is becoming less round and warm than before (I went yesterday evening to hear her in Zurich, La Cenerentola). Moreover I hope she will not choose the facility, because that is what she did yesterday.Hysterical gestures don’t fit for a fine acting, she got to think the role a little deeper and not always with the “cecilia” point of view. But I will always be convinced that she is a great artist.

  8. Elvira replied:

    Good evening.
    I had the great luck to see C Bartoli in Zurich performing Semele. She is my favorite singer. Of course she is not perfect, her voice is sometimes “harsh”, but I think she really has something at the musical point of view. But I also think she has to work harder to resolve some technical problems. Her voice is becoming less round and warm than before (I went yesterday evening to hear her in Zurich, La Cenerentola). Moreover I hope she will not choose the facility, because that is what she did yesterday.Hysterical gestures don’t fit for a fine acting, she got to think the role a little deeper and not always with the “cecilia” point of view. But I will always be convinced that she is a great artist.

  9. Alcina replied:

    Elvira, I also attended the Cenerentola at New Years eve 2007. Maybe you did not notice the announcement that Ms Bartoli was sick that night. She could have – easily and reasonably – cancelled and let a lot of people feel disappointed at this special night gala. Maybe it would have been wiser to do so – then at least there would have been not nitpicking, no wise crack’s comments.

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