Wonderful music sung by a modern-day star.
Charlotte Gardner 2008
Cecilia Bartoli stands apart from other classical artists with her talent for unearthing and breathing new life into long-forgotten music, rather than re-recording the core repertoire. Perhaps more than any other current performer, she doesn't just lead listeners into different sound worlds but also historical ones, and never has this been more the case than with Maria, her exploration of the repertoire of the 19th-century Spanish diva, Maria Malibran.
Bartoli's fans will have heard her perform songs by Pauline Viardot; Malibran was Viardot's elder sister and, like Bartoli, a mezzo-soprano. An international superstar, Malibran was famed for an extraordinary voice which seems to have had a range of nearly three octaves, her expressive acting, and her turbulent private life. Rossini raved about her "disconcerting musical genius" with which she "surpassed all who sought to emulate her". By the time she died in a riding accident aged only twenty eight, she had sung across Europe and America, had roles were created for her, and a theatre named after her. Little surprise then, that Bartoli is so fascinated by her. The sleeve notes, crammed with images of Malibran souvenirs from Bartoli's private collection, describe the diva's life and music, but also the history of the mezzo soprano voice and what she might have sounded like. It is a fascinating re-examination of what "mezzo" actually means. Bartoli, in turn, has aimed not only to present Malibran's repertoire but also to capture her sound. Bartoli's rich voice, with its pyrotechnical capabilities and dramatic powers, couldn’t have been better suited to the task.
Whilst some of the arias on this disc are from operas still in the 21st-century repertoire such as Bellini's operas La Sonnambula and I Puritani, much of the music on this disc has been recorded for the first time, such as the London version of Mendelssohn's Infelice, and Malibran's own martial composition, Rataplan. A highlight is the folk-inspired Yo Que Soy Contrabandista, by Manuel Garcia, Malibran's father. More than just a history lesson though, this is wonderful music sung by a modern-day star.