Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cecilia and Salieri; Music

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cecilia and Salieri; Music

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL CHURCH

As one of the world's greatest opera stars, Cecilia Bartoli, comes to the Royal Opera House, Michael Church hears why she has recorded an album devoted to the music of Mozart's jealous rival, Antonio Salieri

Who killed Mozart? Director Milos Forman's 1984 film Amadeus offered the stock reply: it was court composer Antonio Salieri wot done it, out of sheer envy over little Wolfgang's sublime talent. Even if we don't buy that thesis, we still look askance at Salieri: since we never hear his music, we dismiss him as a mediocrity, deservedly forgotten. But suddenly he's found a champion.

Enter on a white charger Cecilia Bartoli, with a new CD - The Salieri Album - devoted entirely to his arias. Why on earth should the world's most celebrated mezzo - and, at [pounds sterling]30,000 per concert, the most expensive - bother to put herself out in this way? This is not normal diva behaviour.

But 36-year-old Bartoli is no normal diva, as I find when I meet her at her palatial safe house by the Seine (home is either in Zurich, Monaco or a villa in Italy, depending on how she is feeling). Brisk and businesslike in a black jump-suit, she offers a typically no-nonsense explanation for her crusade, which arose while she was recording some Gluck. 'During my research, Salieri's name kept cropping up, and it was clear that Gluck, who was his teacher, loved him very much,' she explains. 'So one day I said, "Let's look in to this mystery." I looked for his sheet music in the shops, and couldn't find it. And there was only one recording.' So she put her tame musicologist on the case, who turned up manuscripts galore. 'And there they were - lovely operas with beautiful libretti, and such a range of emotions. I thought, "Wow! I must perform this music."' There were no problems about making a CD.

'Decca were very surprised, but after the success of my Gluck and Vivaldi recordings, they trusted my judgement. They said, "Well, if Cecilia wants to do it, perhaps we should let her."' In other words, Decca knew better than to mess with their top seller, no matter how bizarre her ideas. …

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