"Cecilia Bartoli's voice glitters like a sparkling diamond" (art-tv)
There is no better way to describe this operatic production than as radiantly sunny. To be sure, as the peasant maiden Clari, la Bartoli occasionally emotes and longs convincingly for her native cow-stalls. But the sheer vitality and good spirits of the singer, along with the pop-style imaginativeness and comic-book colorfulness of the production, infuse this long-forgotten opera with a wit and fire that leave a smile on everyone's face.
Much of this is due to Cecilia Bartoli, one of the world's leading mezzo-sopranos and surely one of the most natural, winning and unpretentious prima donnas of today. Her enormous popularity – her recordings are among the classical repertoire's top sellers – has allowed her to bring about performances of forgotten works in prestigious houses. To cap her homage to the great singer Maria Malibran on the bicentennial of her birth in 2008, Bartoli convinced the Zurich Opera to stage "Clari."
A work of Rossinian wit and Bellinian vocal fireworks, "Clari" was written by the French composer Jacques Fromental Halévy (best known for "La Juive") and premiered by Malibran in 1828. The title heroine is a girl of peasant origins chosen by a wealthy Duke to become his wife. Upon her arrival from the country, however, he has second thoughts... She regrets her mistake, nearly goes mad, flees to her family farm, and is ultimately found by the Duke, who realizes that she is his true love – no matter how many cows she has milked.
Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier whip up a dazzlingly colorful and witty production, with over-the-top costumes and sets full of whimsy and amusing details. In spite of the artificiality of the situation, "the emotions must be genuine," assert Leiser and Caurier. And whether Bartoli is recoiling from a rake's all too forward advances or having a breakdown in a hospital, her emotions are 100 percent genuine. "She feels completely in her element with the work's bel canto virtuosity, trills, runs, octave leaps, delicate piano notes and madcap coloraturas" (Opernglas). Following in Malibran's footsteps, Bartoli also enhances the score with bravura inserts from Rossini's "Otello" and Halévy's later opera "La Tempête." "Clari" – an operatic experience that is pure entertainment and good cheer!