Cecilia Bartoli

Antonio Vivaldi

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This is Cecilia Bartoli's second collection of Vivaldi arias; the first appeared in 1999 under the title The Vivaldi Album, and Bartoli continues to record for the same label, Decca, with a stability that's rare these days. The cynics' first question will be about how Bartoli's voice is holding up: she was 52 when this album appeared in 2019. As it happens, she's fine. You can sample "Combatta un gentil cor," from Act II of Tito Manlio, RV 738, to assure yourself of her continued combination of flair and pitch precision in the big, high-powered arias. "If you perfect your technique, that's what gives you longevity," Bartoli confidently told Flemish television, and it seems she has the chops to deliver on that boast. It's a middle-aged voice, sure, but it's undiminished, and such an approach obscures what's best about Bartoli: her knack for reshaping the repertory and then singing the new music in such a way that you feel it's always been around. In 1999, Vivaldi opera was still fairly new, at least in major-label circles. Now it's more familiar, but with just a few exceptions, the arias and even the operas here will be unknown to all but Baroque enthusiasts. Backed in a sympathetically fiery vein by France's Ensemble Matheus under Jean-Christophe Spinosi, Bartoli delivers standard-setting performances of repertory that she successfully argues has been unjustly neglected.

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