Sacrificium: The Art of the Castrati (A Cinematographic Vision by Olivier Simonnet) Review
Of course, the part I imagine really interests someone thinking about viewing this DVD is the singing quality, style, and overall performance. This is, all in all excellent in its portrayal and incredible in its technical mastery. Bartoli sings with immaculate breath control and effervescent, irrepressible coloratura perfectly mastered for pitch and vocal tone. The most immediately apparent pieces of technical difficulty are the likes of "Nobil onda," "Son qual nave," "In braccio a mille furie," and the inimitable, "Cadrò, ma qual si mira." The incredible alacrity of the coloratura, the difficulty and length of the runs, and the precision the melodies require show off Bartoli's title The Queen of Agility. "Cadrò, ma qual si mira," indeed, does seem to truly live up to what Bartoli claims: that it is the most difficult Baroque aria ever written. I must say my personal favorite on the DVD (and the album) is "In braccio a mille furie," with its raging fury and coloratura fireworks. Bartoli I also think does a good job in her performance of portraying the character's emotions.
Bartoli herself does an incredible job of performing the music of the castrati. That sad, like all vocalists, she is not perfect. Sometimes her singing seems to represent immense body tension. It is amazing, and a credit to her technique, that she is able to sing like this. Indeed, it often aids in the interpretation of many of these charged arias. Nonetheless, one sometimes wonders if she could gain more freedom and power (in terms of size, as agility is clearly not an issue whereas volume has been a criticism against Bartoli) by releasing some of this tension. Also, sometimes the tension in the body, rather than adding to the physical interpretation, distracts from the singing or makes it hard to watch and feel the emotions because too much is going on in the body. The voice, though quite beautiful throughout, does have its moments of harshness or shrillness. Some of these are purposeful in an attempt to paint the text of the aria. Some are not and often stem from the difficulty and alacrity of the arias. Though not perfect in this regard, Bartoli manages passages few singers can actually sing with overall grace and beauty.
To anyone who has any interest in the music on Sacrificium, Baroque in nature and intended for castrati, I absolutely recommend picking up this DVD. I have watched it several times and find all of the music incredibly engaging, particularly when paired with the stunning visuals of Caserta. If you're not sure, check out a few YouTube links (listed below). Or try buying and listening to Sacrificium in its CD form first. The links for both the CD and the DVD are below as well.