The gleaming smile in the cover shot belongs to a young mezzo-soprano coasting at the top of her game, thrilled at the chance to show off in the 400-year-old Teatro Olimpico in Vicenze. The cheers interspersed throughout this June 1998 concert are her adoring fellow Italians. Count yourself lucky to be able to join them and Cecilia Bartoli with a recording that faithfully reflects the scrumptious range of both her voice and emotional dynamics.
Within the first three selections by Caccini, Bartoli displays crystal-clear diction, from a warm mezzo lower range all the way up to the gentle, airy tones at the top of her soprano. She unleashes a potent battery of coloratura techniques in the Vivaldi aria. The role of accompaniment passes from the lively Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca to tasteful pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, as Bartoli proceeds to feature impressive, if unseen, characterizations: the folksiness of the Viardot, the low darkness of Rossini's Zelmira. A similar spirit pervades the encores as well, with the androgynous ardor of Mozart's Cherubino and the almost Carmen Mirandaesque zest of the contemporary piece by Montsalvatge. This is a bounty of Bartoli.