cover image Cecilia Bartoli: The Passion of Song

Cecilia Bartoli: The Passion of Song

Kim Chernin. HarperCollins Publishers, $25 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-06-018644-9

Wayne Koestenbaum started something with The Queen's Throat about gays and their frenzy over opera, and now we have a lesbian take on diva worship, at least Chernin and Stendhal's Bartolimania. Stendhal, who here contributes the performance guide to the mezzo coloratura's 14 appearances in staged opera, is the more restrained, while Chernin pulls out all the stops in a text she thinks ""should be written in a pitch of high ecstasy."" The adjectives erupt like lava, as in one sentence Bartoli is described as ""voluble, intelligent, quick, clever, fiery, intense, authoritative, gracious."" Stendhal expresses fear that the gods may cause the 29-year-old singer to die young in payment for her perfection; but, she speculates further, perhaps Bartoli is ""here"" on a mission that could protect her. The authors, who previously collaborated on Sex and Other Sacred Games, fell in love with Bartoli on first sighting in 1991, when the then unknown performer sang in an almost empty concert hall on the UC Berkeley campus. A couple of years later, they interviewed her in Houston at her American stage debut in The Barber of Seville. They talked with Bartoli again briefly at a master class she and her mother conducted in Germany. And it's these few encounters that have been tarted up into this frilly valentine. Photos. $25,000 ad/promo. (Mar.)