The Passion Song
Author Kim Chernin’s account of a growing fascination with Bartoli’s voice and the desire to meet the singer and delve into details about her art. Included in the book is a performance guide by co-author Renate Stendhal that traces the singer’s career from its beginnings on Italian television to her debuts at La Scala and the Met.
Cecilia Bartoli, still under 30, has made her mark so far as a coloratura mezzo singing the lighter repertory of Mozart and Rossini in bel canto style. She began as a dancer and became an actor, and she specializes in bringing her characters physically to life, much as Maria Callas did. Her teacher is her mother, Silvana Bazzoni, who sang Manon Lescaut in her youth. Chernin reviews five Bartoli performances in Berkeley and transcribes a conversation with her in Houston. She is obsessed with the role Bartoli’s mother played in shaping her daughter’s career, and she brings to life the intense discipline Bazzoni teaches, which concentrates first on singing notes purely, with superior breath control, and then on introducing words that are clearly pronounced. Stendhal contributes a guide to some 10 years of Bartoli’s opera performances; it consists mostly of plot summaries with commentary on Bartoli’s interpretations. Altogether, she and Chernin give us not a biography but two adoring fans’ personal perspectives on a most promising singer.– Alan Hirsch
This book . . . chronicles the twin careers of Cecilia Bartoli–a still-young world star possessed of real vocal endowment and an estimable degree of innate musicianship, who wields in performance a restless, unleashed charm–and of her mother, Silvana Bazzoni, a lyric soprano ex-chorister of the Rome Opera. . . . — The New York Times Book Review, James McCourt