Friday, May 24, 2013


I’ve had the Decca pressing of Norma starring Cecilia Bartoli for more than a week now. I was going to write a review but when I started to do it something else emerged. The Widder has known Miss Bartoli for a long time and while she will manage a review, this is what showed up on the Computer Screen for this week.

The short lady, she looked like a very buxom teenager, smiled brilliantly at every person she met at the party in New York, full of patrons of the arts and taste makers. “How do you do?” She asked, in a lilting Italian accent, rather heavy but understandable, “I am a forty eight year old dwarf.” When people looked at her in shock, she said, “my press people have created me, I am from the circus. Here is my passport.” She held up her passport. The age reported there was twenty four. The name was Cecilia Bartoli. Seeing that she was creating something a sensation, she continued meeting people and giving details of her life as a middle aged dwarf. “Oh yes, they say at the circus, ‘you know, you are getting too old-a for the donkeys, but if you smile and bounce, you can say you are a Rossini mezzo.’” To a billionaire couple and a prissy critic she said, “to be a dwarf is perfect for Mozart-a, you know. He wrote only for little people with very small voices who use too much breath in their fioratura. In the circus they say, ‘Cecilia,.just a-smile and wear tight pants and wiggle and no one will notice your voice, and just think, you will never have to – how you say – somersault again.”

It wasn’t her first sensation in New York but it made quite an impression. Edgar Vincent, a wonderful man, who was her press agent, caught up with her, grabbed her with a big smile, took her into a corner and hissed, “they will think you are really crazy and some of them are dumb enough to believe you.” The young lady looked around the room, found a man who was fat but not too far gone – yet – it was my sad Siamese twin whose unpronounceable name can be found on this blog and she pointed, “he said I should do it!”

Edgar, who was very elegant, but could glide with the velocity of a perfectly aimed bullet, headed in my poor twin’s direction, steam coming out of his ears. Miss Bartoli had caught my twin’s eye, both were laughing hysterically. Mr. Vincent was not amused, and though slight of frame, he frog marched my poor brother out of the room with the iron grip of a Marine and, once free of witnesses, screamed at him.

I am not certain it was entirely my twin’s idea, though my twin and Miss Bartoli had spoken uproariously the day before of the circus, and what buxom but short young women might do there. Signora Bartoli, Miss Bartoli’s mother, had been privy to this discussion and appeared to laugh too; my twin, rather a dense sort, alas, didn’t catch the warning glances shooting from her eyes.

This had all come up because Miss XXY, a rival mezzo who was certainly getting excellent reviews and had had (after years of trying) some real successes was also in New York and was telling everybody that this fraud, Cecilia Bartoli, was a forty eight year old dwarf some power mongers who didn’t especially care for Miss XXY, or at least, didn’t care enough to represent her, had dug up from somewhere to fool summer addled New Yorkers, always easy to take in when it came to the arts and if stuck in town, anxious for a sensation. The dwarf’s reclamé was the product of public relations and art politics. Miss XXY, not realizing that my twin knew Miss Bartoli and indeed, her family, had sung her scena for him, inventing some pretty astounding details about the nomadic life of circus dwarfs, mezzos who aspirated coloratura, who had small voices and didn’t trill well.

Though warned not to share this with Miss Bartoli, my twin couldn’t help himself. La Signora wasn’t sure who they were talking about. “Don’t you remember?” Asked Miss Bartoli, “she was my cover in Cosi at Aix. She’s the one who offered me a hundred dollars to get sick the last performance.” “Ah si, si, ricordo,” nodded Signora, “disgraziata!” She spat. Signora Bartoli had indeed had a career as a promising young soprano in the last years of the Second World War and, with her husband, had persisted until it was clear they couldn’t earn enough as soloists to support their children. “Only a fool offers money,” Signora Bartoli had opined that day, “she should have pushed you down stairs.” “Mama!” cried Miss Bartoli. “Don’t worry,” had said Signora Bartoli eyeing her full figured daughter, “you would have bounced and she would have lost face! If you can’t kill someone how do you expect to sing?”

Miss Bartoli had a fairy tale story, which also didn’t endear her to colleagues who had labored much longer in the fields of sorrow and disappointment before getting what breaks they got. Her career had begun like theirs. She’d become an exceptional musician and attended the Academy of Santa Cecilia. “It helped me with the piano and harmony, as for the voice, it was one lesson a week with someone who didn’t know what they were talking about.” Bartoli had learned most of her technique from her mother, from general common sense principals and then from trial and error. She did begin to get engagements, but they were small, sporadic and low paying. As usual in careers, important people would say they were impressed but never be in touch again. The Bartolis were poor and she needed to earn at least enough to support herself and help out at home. She was going no where. She wrangled an audition with Christopher Raeburn, one of the great record producers of Decca, he was very impressed and agreed to try and arrange an aria recital. But in the meanwhile, no one was hiring her or worse, even willing to hear her.

(ghost written by the wonder worker, Jack Mastroianni)

Raeburn, in desperation, turned to an old friend of his, the smartest and hardest working American manager, Jack Mastroianni. Jack was then at CAA under the legendary monster Ronald Wilford with a dangerous rival, the vicious phony, Matthew Epstein, who was closer to Wilford. Ironically, one of Jack’s clients was Marilyn Horne, the most famous coloratura mezzo in the world. He was on a quick visit to Europe and had very little time to meet an unknown who belonged to a category of singer who was a dime a dozen, a light Rossini mezzo. With Horne, he hardly needed someone else who sang some of her roles. Like all agents (managers are glorified agents) Jack had to pull his weight in terms of billings at CAA, one of the most prominent and ruthless classical music agencies in the world, from which agents were easily fired. His job was to sell artists for high fees. Who would hire this unknown in that world, or for all he knew, at all?

But on his last day in Europe, because Raeburn was a good friend, Jack went to Rome to hear Bartoli. He expected little. At her family’s apartment in the Monteverde section, she waited in terror. Her agent of record was the first Mrs. Pavarotti, Adua. She would later be dumped, but get most of the tenor’s money and holdings (he was broke when he died). Typical of agents who work with younger artists, Adua had, it seemed, hundreds of clients, and did very little for any of them. Cecilia knew Adua was a dead end; Jack might be her last chance. Raeburn, Mastroianni, Cecilia and her mother waited for the pianist, made small talk, and Jack began looking at his watch less and less discreetly. So, Cecilia played for herself and sang all kinds of things. Luckily, Jack adored her, loved the timbre of her voice, was impressed by the velocity and flair of her florid singing and felt any problems could be ironed out. Above all he recognized that rarest thing, charisma. When she began to sing, apparent impossibilities evaporated. After telling her that of course there could be no guarantees, and stardom was probably merely a dream, he agreed to represent her.

(the late great Edgar Vincent)

Jack knew he’d have to put himself on the line. He’d built up enormous good will; he was an honest broker and through his illustrious clients at CAA he knew everybody. But the problem with a new talent is finding a way to break him or her through the noise of all that’s going on, in a culture where classical singers were a very hard sell, and a brand name is apt to matter more than what that brand can deliver. He got Edgar Vincent a tape. Edgar loved what he heard. He’d been doing the impossible with classical artists – getting an increasingly small and recalcitrant press interested in covering them -- since the late thirties, knew everybody in the arts press and had an invaluable prestige.

None of these men was naïve; Cecilia could easily be dead in the water. She’d have to make it internationally, she hadn’t really clicked in Italy and never would, she didn’t have a power base, even a small one that could promote and pay her while they built on whatever exposure she got. She didn’t have any champions among celebrity conductors; they’d been hard to get to. Lacking means she hadn’t been able to fund trips to far flung auditions and Adua was best at getting her into what in America are called “cattle calls”, with dizzying numbers of other long shots heard by bored functionaries. By taking Bartoli on Vincent, but especially Mastroianni would be taking big personal risks. Jack was trusted because when he said someone could deliver he had been right. If he took a hit from Bartoli it would cost him.

But she did click internationally. Against the odds, the debut CD for Decca that Raeburn produced -- he forced it through by calling in favors -- sold very well and got great reviews. Cecilia had a tremendous gift for concerts, unlike most opera singers. And Jack knew that while it takes time to get opera houses to book a singer for a leading role, concerts can be much more easily and much more quickly set up. She had an irresistible personality, adored what she was doing, could learn music quickly, had a very sharp instinct for programming (helped by her mother) and in concert halls her voice didn’t seem slight; it was small but not insubstantial, she knew had to “grade” dynamics, so climactic passages rang out, soft passages were easily heard and blandishing, and she had an interesting and even profound grasp of what the words she was singing (always beautifully pronounced) meant.

She was also a great interview, with an infectious sense of humor, good linguistic ability and a tangible charm that came over in print, on TV. It’s not that there weren’t skeptics in those early days, or the occasional dismissive review. It’s that they didn’t matter. People who paid for their seats adored her. She had the one quality you can’t buy or fake: uniqueness. Horne had a bigger voice and a less hedged technique; Von Stade had a beautiful timbre and was irresistible. But Bartoli was Bartoli; no one thought she was imitating them or even influenced by them. And wonderful as those two were, Bartoli’s élan, even a touch of wildness, a willingness to risk, was in some senses a throw back to an earlier era of singers with huge personalities who were laws unto themselves. One could complain about the breathy coloratura, the trill might not happen but she was hard to dislike and impossible to ignore.

She became a big name very quickly, my twin wrote the first big interview with her in America, in Vanity Fair of all places – she’d been hugely lucky. But for a great career, luck has to keep happening, or ways have to be found to sustain and build on the early good impression. Many people fizzle quickly.


Some other memories of Miss Bartoli flash through my poor twin’s mind. The Barber of Seville in Houston, another big occasion, and Bartoli’s first stage appearance in America. Rosina’s entrance aria, “una voce poca fa” began well but then the supporting mezzo singing the servant Berta, in jail trustee uniform, strode on and began wiggling her very large body in time to the music, “guarding” her charge. The audience roared with laughter at her antics. Bartoli was drowned out and pushed off form by the unexpected laughter. The other singers, more stage wise than she, arranged their scenes with her so she was often in less light than they were; her face was hard to make out.

There were the usual congratulations afterwards but Jack suggested they all go to a huge amusement part near Houston the next day. On a dare, Miss Bartoli and my twin rode a nightmarish roller coaster. She had a good time. My twin threw up. But over barbeque, my twin, who had had a career in theater talked to Miss Bartoli about certain things. He suggested she tell the massive Berta that if she did that again during “una voce poco fa” Miss Bartoli would “get lost” during Berta’s short aria in the second act and wander on stage, look shocked and “forget” how to get off stage while the large comprimaria was singing. “Is this possible?” Asked Miss Bartoli.

So my twin who had been to an illustrious but vicious drama school recounted how a fellow student, an actress who went on to win Oscars and become world famous, had in a certain role pushed the adorable and tall Sigourney Weaver out of the way and shoved my massive twin into a chair and sat on him for a speech she intended to give so as to create a maximum frisson. It wasn’t the first time this beloved icon had kicked my twin, who had an unhappy habit of getting the giggles. (They threw out half the class; my twin, there as a playwright and to study music as far as possible, had been pressed into acting). In the first instance, Miss Weaver and my twin had been screamed at by the entire theater faculty in front of the whole school for being unprofessional and the icon praised for her genius.

As for the lighting issue, Jack was able to arrange for a short rehearsal where the light plot jumped from scene to scene involving Rosina, while my twin showed Cecilia where she could stand to maximize her visibility and how to tell she was in the right place both by eye and by the “feel” of the light on her face. “But when the others try to make me move?” She asked. My twin gave the obvious answer: “shove that person once, and he’ll never do it again.” She was wide eyed after this, but the next performance went much better.

My twin recognized something about Cecilia: she had enormous panache when she felt safe, as she had at that toney party in New York; but when uncertain, she seemed a shy, almost frightened little girl. As the youngest but most famous member of a cast of veterans she was automatically a target. Of course, my twin told her on another occasion when they discussed tactics, it’s always best to talk to people when there’s a problem, and singers know there are people whose permission they should get. BUT when that doesn’t go well and everything is on the line, sheer assertion must always be the answer. Many females have a hatchet man (sometimes it’s their husband) who does the threats (Victoria de los Angeles’ husband served this purpose but he took all her money, too, leaving her broke as her voice began to fade). Generally, my twin’s notion and indeed his experience had been that when they are terrified of you, you are likelier to get a readier cooperation and aren’t stuck with a middle man. But this “double nature” suggested to my twin the results of the tough, unhappy and at times brutal childhood Cecilia had had. This was only alluded to, and then occasionally and obliquely. Contrary to stereotype, Italians are very private and there is much that isn’t shared.

Other snap shots came to my twin. There was the party for Cecilia to which the joke later known as Mr. 9/11, Rudy Guliani, then mayor of New York was to come. It was raining out and she was very unhappy. My twin and Cecilia took a long walk in the rain. She cried bitterly. This was during The Marriage of Figaro at the Met, where she was singing Susanna. She had been attacked in an article in the New York Times.

Dr. Jonathan Miller, the director of record, had told the idiot, James Oestreich, that Cecilia had come late for rehearsals. But she and most of the cast had arrived early to be ready to work. Dr. Miller was late. Like all fools and frauds he had talked in an accent borrowed from the Queen of England but had done nothing. According to him, Miss Bartoli had been obstructive. But according to several members of the cast, they had gotten together in rehearsal and privately to work out scenes about which Dr. Miller had no ideas, with Cecilia a cheer leader. Dr. Miller also mocked Miss Bartoli for “insisting” on doing the substitute arias that Mozart had written for Susanna at some performances. But in reality, someone named James Levine had come up with the idea that it would be fun to alternate these arias at a few performances, Bartoli had gone along. Oestreich was too stupid, too ignorant about opera, too impressed with Her Royal Majesty’s accent to check any of the lies Dr. Miller had told. There were plenty of witnesses who would have gladly refuted him. By why should the highly paid Oestreich do his job? Why should the New York Times hire a smart person, rather than an idiot pig (recently laid off with a great package)? Bartoli was desperately hurt.

Well, my twin was puzzled again. He’d had been attacked in the Times and many other papers. He had gone into his profession knowing many people who had been viciously treated by inferior fools.  There’s nothing to be done about it; from somewhere has to come the hardness to salve whatever hurt results and go on. Cecilia, by then a big star, again seemed vulnerable. My twin pointed out that at least she was having a success with the audiences and that had to be her comfort.

She and my twin talked about death. Her older brother was dying horribly of cancer, leaving a family behind. She had spent an enormous amount of money trying to save him. He had encouraged her, taught her (he was a musician too) and been a protector of the family in some very hard times. She asked what music she might sing. My twin recommended Ich habe genug by Bach, a cantata of leave taking and hope in something better. They listened to the recording by Hans Hotter. And then had tried it at the piano – Cecilia had a reasonable command of German. She lasted only a few measures before fleeing.

There had been a few seconds of naked grief, but it was never mentioned again. Cecilia was older and becoming tougher. She was facing some career realities. Though she loved doing concerts, her taste was inclining more and more to the Baroque and Classical, not the expected repertoire and most thought not commercial. She didn’t feel all the Rossini roles suited her and she felt her voice was too small for some roles, her personality wrong for others. Of course, everyone suggested Carmen; Abbado wanted her to do the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos. But though she could function in German she didn’t feel comfortable about an entire role. She felt remote from Carmen. She hadn’t been that happy doing La Cenerentola at the Met; it had gone well but she felt as though her personality hadn’t had the impact for which she had hoped.

She loved the idea of doing La Traviata. When in the mood she would sing “Sempre libera” in key, sometimes with high E flat. One needed only to hear her try a few measures of “Addio dal passato” to understand what she could bring to the role. But by this time the furies had been unleashed on the Internet, in small publications and she was subject to vicious attack (not as pornographic as those launched on another gifted woman, Renee Fleming). “They would crucify me,” she said.

Pavarotti had gotten interested in her. They made records of the “Chiedi al’ aura” duet from L’Elisir d’amore and interestingly, the “Cherry Duet” from L’Amico Fritz. (I am not sure but think the Fritz duet never circulated). He wanted to do one of those operas, or perhaps something similar, at least in the recording studio. But again, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t be exposing herself to maximum attack for minimal gain.

A conductor she liked very much, the great Nicholas Harnoncourt had become obsessed with doing Aida as it had been done at its world premiere in Egypt. Apparently there were big differences in the orchestration; the tuning had been verifiably low as well. He thought Bartoli should be his Aida. Certainly in a recording studio at the lower tuning, she could have done the role, bringing dusky erotic warmth, a Latinate quality that had largely disappeared from the world as fewer Italians emerged to sing these iconic roles. But Bartoli turned him down finally, and eventually he recorded the standard version with the vast Vienna Philharmonic and a very light voiced soprano as Aida (with the other singers typical for their roles).

In this frustrating period, Bartoli began to move away from the conventional model of representation. She was less interested in playing ball with a powerful manager and she got tougher as a negotiator. Few of the big Italian conductors had been willing to help her when she needed some promotion, and she was icily unsentimental about affronting them. She was capable of outmaneuvering commanders of the baton in pressured situations -- to protect herself, she said -- but to stick it them as well. In general she grew much less trusting; she wasn’t exactly paranoid but she knew that in the business there are plenty of people who will give you a big hug with a knife hidden in one hand, happy to plunge it in your back as they kissed you on both cheeks.

After about 2001 much would change; she would go her own way, facing prophecies of disaster. She reinvented herself; tours of Baroque arias with a period ensemble looked like sure losers but concerts sold out and CDs were improbable classical best sellers. She sang murderously difficult music, much of it unheard for centuries. She displayed a huge range and sometimes incredible velocity. Her use of “aspiration” in florid music (audible breaths) was complained of, though it was more evident sometimes than others. On the Internet and sometimes in print she was attacked mostly by ignorant fools who never detected the fake outs of their idols and simply made up calumnies. But the excitement, even hysteria she could create in audiences hardened her to what was unfair, and she also made peace with the technique she had developed and its limits. To witness these concerts live was thrilling, and she never failed to deliver her own sense of excitement in and love of this old music. She had done a lot of the scholarly work herself, discovering scores, looking at ornaments as written down by star singers or their pupils. She loved working as an equal with the small group of musicians (though she was also the boss!).

She became more courageous about approaching roles that had been usurped by high sopranos noting that Maria Malibran, the legendary if short lived icon of the bel canto era had apparently been what we’d call a mezzo soprano (a term that only gradually came into use) and had sung all the high roles including Amina in Bellini’s Sonnambula and Norma. She studied Malibran’s scores and read everything she could find that described her sound – dark and complex. She also studied the scores of another great prima donna, Giudetta Pasta, the creator of Norma, who also had had apparently a dark, low set voice. The rigid conventions of the late 20th century with assumptions made by people who didn’t take these operas seriously anyway appeared arguable at least, and very likely, wrong. There were always the idiots who didn’t read music, knew nothing of history, lacked any artistic sophistication, the opera fools, queens with mother problems who had cathected to "Zinka", always sharp, a joke in florid music, ignorant of the deeper meanings of the text and terrible at pronouncing it or to their own myth of the strange Maria Callas, locked into the gross distortions of these operas, cut and rearranged, as they were given in the fifties and sixties. This had nothing to do with Norma or La Sonnambula or indeed, much of anything, but the psychosis was accepted as a badge of honor. A great critic like the late Charles Rosen could shock a reader by seeing and describing the genius in Bellini, who had after all been a huge influence on many of the “great” composers of his own time and even later, ranging from Chopin to Richard Wagner (“long, long, long melodies such as no one before had written".). But the moronic reviewers who should have been janitors or killed at birth, school of Oestreich repeated stale, ignorant clichés.


Bartoli had grown from that high spirited, sometimes uncertain girl to a mature artist who felt called to rediscover these and other operas, easily dismissed, always distorted and she decided to do it through scholarship, hard work, will and risk.

This ambition too was seen as foolish, even delusional. But two experiences of Bartoli suggested that maybe she could pull it off.

One was the Fiordaligi she sang in Zurich in 2000. Her performances of this difficult, long and wide ranging role were astonishing. The house is small and she made it the basis for most of her stage performances. In the Cosi fan tutte, conducted by Harnoncourt she had sung the role with abandon, emotional fullness, musical insight and a kind of profundity. Her voice sounded beautiful live and she had no trouble with the extremes of the role. She had the humor for the opera seria send up of Come scoglio in act one; but in act two, the more difficult Per pieta was sung with endless longing, need, a desire to be loved that was devastating. Fiordaligi’s dilemma, perhaps not entirely serious, self contradictory, became for that aria as she sang it, the dilemma of all humans who long for love but can’t understand where to find it, how to achieve it. The audience wouldn’t breathe during her performance, and then would erupt in an explosion – not only of enthusiasm for her – but of shared understanding.

But perhaps more relevant to Norma was a performance I saw in London in the late 90’s of Amina’s opening scene from La Sonnambula. She hoped to sing the opera and it was to be mounted for her at the Met. The tenor was to be Ramon Vargas. She knew it was a big risk but she was willing to take it. But Vargas had a terrible personal tragedy and withdrew. The Met cast an unknown tenor who Bartoli had never heard and she withdrew, perhaps forever from staged opera in America.

The London “Sovra al sen” conducted by Neville Marriner had been a test. It was a revelation. I have a CD made live and it is on You tube; it remains breathtaking. 

She had gone back to the autograph and she had projected her voice into a big hall. In recitative, slow section and contrasting fast section she had worked hard to project a young girl, on the eve of her marriage to the man she loves. Amina was a simple, almost childlike being, naïve, “romantic” and in that fast section ecstatic. In the slow “Sovra al sen” she had sung the way one might have played Chopin. Marriner followed her perfectly as she used an agogic (rhythmic) technique to bring the melody to life. Now, she would be slightly ahead of the beat, then, slightly behind; she used a perfectly judged but apparently spontaneous rubato – deliberately staying behind for this phrase and then, subtly catching up. She felt the shape of the melody fully. What sounds a very pretty tune usually, became exquisitely, shockingly, strangely beautiful; the eagerness, the sudden shyness, the touch of fear of a simple girl was all there in the way Bellini had lovingly shaped his melody on the words. It was an endless instant, opera itself, in the way an entire personality, endearing, vulnerable, at risk was exposed. Then, in the fast section there had been a wild abandon achieved without sacrificing the elegance the style requires. The shock of this music, apparently simple and to the opera lovers present surely over familiar, was something new, and the audience exploded at the end into an enormous, prolonged, stamping ovation. Bartoli had captured the magic of music that had once enchanted the world, and which had been something new, for Bellini was inventing romanticism, taking a risk, just as Cecilia Bartoli was.

Some years later she would make a complete recording of La Sonnambula and now she has recorded Norma. Next time the widder will consider those recordings. 


  1. What a wonderful column. I remember when Bartoli's debut album of the old Italian arias came out (21 years ago) and how refreshing it was to hear those songs which all of us who have studied voice sang at one time or another. I've continued listening to her on the radio and via CD & DVD and every performance is revelatory. I've heard snippets of the Norma recording that The Guardian has posted and quite enjoy her interpretation (though I do think that Sumi Jo sounded dry as Adalgesia). It would be nice if the current stage production is filmed for DVD release (I don't know if it is).

    Thanks for reminding me of Charles Rosen. I've pulled 'The Romantic Generation' off the bookshelf and will re-read the Bellini section this afternoon. Also thanks for linking the Sonamula aria with Marriner; wonderful singing conveyed with a joy that most singers don't capture.

  2. Great entry! Also, again, you make opera singers come to life like no other. My vision of Cecilia Bartoli had always been: confident, kind of imperious, sort of quirky. (I suppose that's how I imagine most successful opera singers.) Now I'm going to be checking back every day for the Norma/Sonnambula review.

    I have to say (don't kill me) that Callas didn't ALWAYS sing heavily cut versions of operas. It depended on which conductor she was working with. The Bernstein '55 Sonnambula opened a lot of cuts, and how much of Norma was cut also depended on who was conducting. She only sang Anna Bolena in one production which was shredded and her Lucias were always shredded, but the Mexico City Puritani had less cuts than the EMI recording. The Bernstein Sonnambula might be my favorite overall Callas recording, actually.

  3. Thanks, Alan and Ivy. Charles Rosen is amazing to read and re-read, Alan, as you know. It's wonderful that his books are out there yet so few even know of them.

    Ivy I have subscribed to your blog but can't seem to list it. I AM CRANKO'S ONEGIN, I remember Marcia and Rickie and nearly died every time I saw them. Ivy's great blog is

    1. Thank you Emma! I'm reading Phlip Gossett's Divas and Scholars. Have you read that book?

  4. I was going to wait for the second part to comment, but I just couldn't wait to at least say thanks for another post that forces me to reexamine my opinion of a musician. I have always respected Bartoli seriousness as an artist and her determination to have a career on her own terms. Like so many of the greats, I have missed seeing her live, but I must say she made quite an impression on me in a broadcast of "Cosi" from the Met. When she came in as the Nottaro and started to do that voice I laughed in a way I have never laughed at the opera. She sounded like a cousin of Lucy in that vat of grapes. That moment was so vivid it jumped out of the radio and made you see what Mozart was trying to do in that scene. And now that clip from La Sonnambula is truly a revelation. As with all great communicators, most of Bartoli's records do not capture that magic she has with the audience, and I think that is true with a lot of great performers. I much prefer Callas live recordings, as rough as they can be sometimes, to a lot of her studio recordings which can be very self-conscious. Same thing for me with Sutherland and Nilsson. That "Sovra il sen" is some of the purest music making I've ever heard in my years lstening to Italian opera. And that reaction at the end is so joyful, I can see how people fall in love with her. I think in many ways Bartoli is as revolutionary as Callas was in her time. One last thing: did Levine say anything in Bartoli's defense during that "Nozze" brouhaha? I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. He is a brilliant musician, but I always found him a tad passive aggressive. Sorry to go on so long, but I really enjoyed the article and it has made me think a lot. Can't wait for the second part.