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Cecilia Bartoli, Last Seen With a Beard, May Return to New York

“I hope to come back — it’s a long time now,” she said, arousing interest because rumors to that effect have begun to swirl in New York music circles.

Ariodante 2017 • Cecilia Bartoli Video by SalzburgerFestspiele

Ms. Bartoli, 51, has long made her artistic home in Europe, where she has had a ready audience for the rarely performed works she has championed. Just when and where she might come back to New York were unclear. Her voice is not the largest, and she made her name singing Mozart and Rossini roles scaled for smaller, more intimate theaters than the Met and other giant temples of opera. But in the interview, she expressed interest in the state of the Met, praising its selection of Yannick Nézet-Séguin as its next music director and speaking glowingly about the time she spent working with James Levine, its music director emeritus.

One intriguing possibility is that her unusual but critically acclaimed turn in the title role of Bellini’s “Norma” might make its way to New York. The opera website parterre.com reported last month that an unnamed “informant” had said that the staging, directed by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier, would be going to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in “an upcoming season.” The Academy said on Friday that the production was not going there.


Ms. Bartoli in the title role of Bellini’s “Norma” at the Salzburg Festival in 2015. It was unusual casting, as Norma is usually sung by a soprano.

Hans Jörg Michel

Her choosing to do Norma as a mezzo-soprano (with her rival, Adalgisa, sung by a soprano) inverts recent performance practice. When “Norma” opens the Met’s season on Sept. 25, for example, it will star the powerhouse soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role, and the company’s reigning bel canto mezzo, Joyce DiDonato, as Adalgisa.

But Ms. Bartoli noted that Norma was originally sung by Giuditta Pasta, who also sang Rossini’s Cenerentola and other roles now associated with mezzo-sopranos; Adalgisa was sung by Giulia Grisi, praised as Norina in Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” and in other roles commonly done today by sopranos. Ms. Bartoli also pointed out that having a richer-voiced, more mature-sounding Norma losing her lover, Pollione, to a lighter-voiced rival works better dramatically.

“It makes such sense when you see that,” she said in the interview, which was conducted before the rumor surfaced that she might bring the role to New York. “Why would Pollione quit Norma? For the younger one, for the virginal one.”


Ms. Bartoli in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1998, the last time she appeared with that company.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The “Norma” and “Ariodante,” which was directed by Christof Loy, both originated at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival, which Ms. Bartoli has infused with new energy since she became its artistic director in 2012. The opera productions she appears in during this springtime event are revived a few months later at the main Salzburg Festival, where they reach broader audiences and are given longer runs.

Her return to Salzburg as both a star singer and an impresario brings her career full circle. When she was just starting out, she recalled, she auditioned in the main Festival Theater for Herbert von Karajan, shortly before his death in 1989, and some of her earliest days in Salzburg were captured in a documentary film, “Karajan in Salzburg.” She was so unknown then that she was mistakenly listed in the credits as “Cecilia Bardi.”

Reminded of this, she laughed. “Now,” she said, “they know my name!”

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