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Cecilia Bartoli
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Cecilia Bartoli

The Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli (born 4 June 1966) 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. In contrast to most opera singers, Bartoli came to prominence at a very young age -- in her early twenties.

Bartoli was born in Rome. Her 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. Bartoli later studied at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia.

In 1985, at age 19, Bartoli 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 (however his 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 Barenboim and Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Bartoli focussed on Mozart roles, and from then on her career developed internationally. In 1996, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Despina in Cosė fan tutte and returned the following year to sing Cenerentola. Bartoli has a comparatively "small" voice and the cavernous Met is the largest opera house in the world; there was much speculation that she had been secretly miked to boost her volume, but such rumours were steadfastly denied by the Met management. In any case, Bartoli has only sung a very small number of roles onstage -- less than ten -- and she has been increasingly turning her attention to baroque and early classical era vocal music of such composers as Vivaldi, Haydn and Salieri, for which her voice is well-suited.

One of the top-selling classical musicians of recent years, Bartoli is much liked by the concert-going public for her lively, vivacious onstage persona, but some find her acting style overdone, bordering on "hamming". Critics also fault her for her breathy, mannered style of singing.