The Italian mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli, is a popular opera singer and recitalist. She is best-known for her Mozart and Rossini roles as well as for her performances of lesser-known Baroque music. Bartoli is considered a lyric and dramatic coloratura, with perhaps less of a "large voice" than some other mezzos, but with a highly individual timbre which she uses to great vocal and dramatic effect. She is one of the most popular (and one of the top-selling) opera singers of recent years. Bartoli is much liked by the concert-going public for her lively, vivacious onstage persona, while her lyric voice and investigations of other Baroque-era music have given her considerable recognition even among the non-opera-going public.
Cecilia Bartoli's parents were both professional singers and gave her her first music lessons. Her first public performance was at age nine as a shepherd boy in Tosca. She later studied, appropriately enough, at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome.
In contrast to most opera singers, Cecilia Bartoli came to prominence in her early twenties, unusual in a profession where vocal maturity is typically not achieved until the thirties. In 1985, at age 19, she appeared in a talent show on Italian television; the conductor Riccardo Muti saw her performance and invited her to audition at La Scala. Several years later, Herbert von Karajan invited her to sing at the 1990 Salzburg Easter Festival, though Herbert von Karajan's untimely death prevented this from taking place. At this time, she also came to Daniel Barenboim's attention when he saw her performing on a French television tribute to Maria Callas. Working with the conductors Daniel Barenboim and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, she focused on Mozart roles, and from then on her career developed internationally. In 1988, she recorded Rosina in The Barber of Seville. In 1990, she worked with Herbert von Karajan on J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). From then on her career developed rapidly.
In 1996, Cecilia Bartoli made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Despina in Così fan tutte and returned the following year to sing the title role of La Cenerentola. The cavernous Met is the largest opera house in the world and there was much speculation that she had been secretly miked to boost her volume, but such rumours were steadfastly denied by the Met management. As a result of her acclaimed performance, the role of Cinderella has become somewhat associated with Cecila Bartoli.
Cecilia Bartoli has developed repertoire suited to her voice. In addition to Mozart and Rossini, she has been turning her attention to Baroque and early classical era music of such composers as Gluck, Antonio Vivaldi, Haydn and Salieri. In early 2005, she sang Cleopatra in George Frideric Handel's Giulio Cesare, a coloratura soprano role. As her voice has matured it has gained fulness and has gained much of the "largeness" she was early criticized for lacking. She is generally considered one of the best mezzo-sopranos currently practicing.