Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli on a bald 'Mission' to shock

By Douglas MacCutcheon,

On Mission, Cecilia Bartoli’s most recent album, released at the end of 2012, the opera celebrity rediscovers the little-known late-Renaissance composer Agostino Steffani, and goes bald in the process. The album cover provocatively shows Bartoli dressed in a habit, impersonating the hairless 17th century composer-bishop
Steffani
, who was also a diplomat, as well as rumored to be a political spy.

In an interview on the American news program All Things Considered, Bartoli has referred to herself as “the Indiana Jones of classical”, so-called for the delight she takes in unearthing overlooked composers. The Italian Steffani is no different – having lived in Germany most of his life, he was seemingly too caught-up in his diplomatic career to devote his life entirely to musical recognition.

Bartoli’s preview performance of works from Mission at the Barbican theatre in November was well received by critics, and her vocal abilities highly praised, despite the fact that she was suffering from a cold. According to reviews, although she succumbed to a fit of coughing during one item, she still managed to bring down the house.

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