On This Day
4 June: Cecilia Bartoli Was Born

One of the most popular artists of our time, Cecilia Bartoli has sold more than ten million audio and video recordings worldwide. She created the Cecilia Bartoli Music Foundation in 2018, aiming to bring classical music to a wider audience and to showcase talented young musicians. As of 2023, Bartoli is at the helm at Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the first woman director in the history of the opera house. Bartoli is a phenomenon, but she never had a career plan; all she wanted to do was make music, and then more and more music.

Cecilia Bartoli Sings Mozart’s “Vado ma dove”


Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia Bartoli

Born on 4 June 1966 in Rome, Cecilia was named after the patron Saint of Music. Her parents Silvana Bazzoni and Pietro Angelo Bartoli were both professional singers. Her mother was a soprano who abandoned her solo career to look after her three children and subsequently sang in the choir of the Roman Opera. Cecilia’s parents divorced, and her father, a tenor, continued his minor career in Rimini.

For Cecilia, music was part of the everyday. In fact, “the beginning was really natural because my mum sang when I was in her belly. Perhaps it was more natural to hear singing rather than talking in the house.” Bartoli once joked that when she was a child, her “babysitters were the likes of Rossini and Verdi.”

Cecilia Bartoli Sings Rossini’s “Non più mesta” (La Cenerentola)

First Impressions

Cecilia Bartoli and her mother Silvana Bazzoni-Bartoli

Cecilia Bartoli and her mother Silvana Bazzoni-Bartoli

Cecilia’s mother quickly realised that her daughter was very musical, and Cecilia grew up in opera houses, behind the stage and sometimes even on stage. Cecilia remembers, “We didn’t have a babysitter so I would do my homework at the opera house after school and play with the other children of singers. We would be listening to music all the time.”

When Cecilia was about five, she saw a performance of Aida at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, the location where the Three Tenors performed for the first time. As she remembered for an interview, “It was a huge production with animals. They had elephants, horses, and dancers, and it was all in the open air in this huge space.”

George Frideric Handel: Rinaldo, HWV 7, Act II: Aria: Lascia ch’io pianga (Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano; Academy of Ancient Music; Christopher Hogwood, cond.)

First Lessons

Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia Bartoli

Cecilia always used to sing as a child, but it was “what is called a white voice, the untrained voice of a child.” It was time for serious voice lessons, and the first and really only teacher was her mother. Bartoli credits her mother with building her technique. As she explained, “You have to think about it like building a house, stone by stone, and this is what my mother did. Carefully building my technique has allowed me to sing for 35 years, and I’m still singing.”

Bartoli made her first public performance as a shepherd boy in Tosca at the age of 9. And she enrolled at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome at the age of 14. However, she freely admits that she didn’t take singing very seriously at first, as her heart was elsewhere. In fact, Cecilia wanted to be a flamenco dancer. “That music has always spoken to me, and I love to dance and watch the dancing.” She actually joined a group and did some shows, but eventually realised that her real talent was with her voice.

Cecilia Bartoli Sings Rossini’s Canzonetta spagnuola”


Cecilia Bartoli's Mozart Arias recording cover

Cecilia Bartoli’s Mozart Arias recording

Bartoli was still studying at the conservatory when an Italian television program came looking for students to audition for the variety show “Fantastico.” Bartoli remembers, “It was a Saturday show that went on for three months. It was a very funny show with so many different artists, including singers, acrobats, and jugglers. I was in the competition but I did not win.” As Bartoli proudly recalls, “I lost the competition, but I won a career.”

Appearing on the Saturday night variety show certainly provided exposure, and one of the first calls came from the office of Herbert von Karajan, with Daniel Barenboim and Nikolaus Harnoncourt not far behind. “My big moment came,” Bartoli remembers, “when I got a call from Karajan’s office inviting me to audition in Salzburg. He took me for the Bach C-minor Mass, and later, I studied all of the Mozart repertoire with Barenboim.” The rest, as they say, is history.

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Cecilia Bartoli Sings Mozart’s Exultate, Jubilate, K. 165

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