Cecilia gets caned for ‘too-late’ Maria

Reviews for Bartoli’s West Side Story at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival have been overwhelmingly unkind.

The Kurier’s headline: Bartoli singt Musical: Leider nur somehow (Bartoli sings a musical, sadly just somehow)

Merkur: Cecilia Bartoli als (zu) späte Maria (Bartoli as too-late Maria)

Die Presse: A melancholy West Side Story.

Der Standard is a tad kinder about Cecilia sharing the role on stage with a young actress, Michelle Veintimilla.

bartoli as maria

© Salzburger Festspiele/ Silvia Lelli



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  • Salzburg is interested in selling their expensive tickets and so they don’t care about its artistic output – she obviously is no Maria and even her Norma was only a sucess there for their mostly German audience who have not heard a real Norma before – she still is a box office success like Domingo regardless what they sing

    • “. . . regardless of what they sing.” Isn’t this the real problem? To suggest that a classical artist like Bartoli can suddenly switch to the extremely different requirements of Broadway-style singing and performance is just plain ridiculous. Hardly any classical artist has managed cross-over in the recording studio. I still cringe at Domingo’s duet with John Denver, Te Kanawa’s leaps into Cole Porter, Te Kanawa and Carreras having huge problems recording West Side Story as evidenced in the documentary made of the sessions . . . But these were recordings. Few have attempted musicals on stage (other then Renee Fleming).

      I have seen only one review in English, and it is all but dire – “fatally flawed”, “miscast”, “directional aberrations abounded”, of Bartoli’s voice “the vibrato was alarmingly wide”, “Norman Reinhardt’s bland stage presence as Tony is mono-dimensional and the voice, even when miked, small and undistinguished.” Only Dudamel and his orchestra come out it with any praise.


      Don’t get me wrong. I adore “West Side Story”. But why anyone would consider a hugely expensive (240 costumes!), ill-considered production suitable for the traditional Salzburg Whitsun Festival other than as a grossly mistaken Bartoli ego trip, totally beats me.

  • How one could come up with the idea to cast her as Maria is inexplicable to me.How about Emma Kirkby doing Evita?Grossest miscast since John Wayne giving Genghis Khan.

  • Slipped Disc’s schadenfreude in regard to the reviews of Cecelia Bartoli in West Star Story is not justified. Only a sloppy journalist could conclude that those reviews “have been overwhelmingly unkind.” Yes, two of the four journals mentioned, Kurier and Merkur, were critical. But the other two, Die Presse and Der Standard, and many others gave complimentary reviews.

    One could misconstrue the headline of Die Presse’s, “A melancholy West Side Story,” only if they did not read the full review. The body of the review makes it clear that “melancholy’ is not meant as a criticism of Bartoli or anyone else in the show. Rather it refers to the wistful atmosphere of the show, which focuses on an aging Maria (Bartoli), who is looking back on the joys and tribulations of her girlhood. As for Bartoli’s singing, “In the most beautiful, the lyrical moments they formed while moving phrases with a creamy sound that is not far removed from what Kiri Te Kanawa has once achieved under Bernstein’s baton.” (translation from google translate.)

    Der Standard: “Applause for all.” As for Bartoli: “She sings – to intense expression effort – in a special way convincing….As usually with Bartoli, the use of vibrato is the charm of her carefully sculpted lines not exceedingly beneficial. Bartoli but compensates with its musicality.”

    And here’s more from a few reviews that Slipped Disc missed:

    Österreichischer Rundfunk, “West Side Story received enthusiastically.”

    Kleine Zeitung: “Standing ovations for Salzburg “West Side Story.” “Bartoli sings the numbers of the role and with well-known, seemingly endless energy.”

    Salzberger Nachrichten: “Whitsun Festival: Acclaimed premiere of “West Side Story”….Frenetic standing ovation rewarded on Friday the experiment, with Cecilia Bartoli….”The impressive overall impression, the excellent execution by the large and yet individually typed Ensemble, acting and dancing skills, the rapid choreography (Liam Steel), the refined lighting director and technically masterly control of the atmosphere, which can not hurt. And that’s why the ovations were eventually earned.”

    Sudwestpresse: “Bartoli as a disturbance? No, it fits perfectly. Because there is a staging trick – two Marias, one old and one young…Giant jubilation in the Felsenreitschule.”

    All in all, the range of reviews of Salzburg’s West Side Story, and of Bartoli in it, were probably about average; some good, some not-so-good, some indifferent. So why selectively (and inaccurately) report on the only the bad ones?

  • The reviews I have been reading are saying otherwise. There seem to be several people who are out to bring Madame Bartoli down. I don’t understand why though, she is extremely talented, generous, kind, and quite a gift to the classical world. Why not celebrate with her?

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