Italian Mezzo Makes US Opera Stage Debut

SHE came, she sang, and - like another Roman, centuries before her - Cecilia Bartoli conquered. The occasion was the North American stage debut of one of the hottest young singers to emerge on the classical music scene in years.

Miss Bartoli, a 26-year-old mezzo-soprano, has sung concerts and recitals in this country and is known through a series of best-selling recordings. But her sold-out appearance last Friday night in Rossini's "Il Barbiere Di Siviglia" (The Barber of Seville) with the Houston Grand Opera marked her first stage performance for an American audience.

Bartoli has a lower, mezzo voice - "with an extension," she explains, which means that she is comfortable up to a ringing high C. "Some people say, `Oh, you sing only Rossini and Mozart!' But they wrote many, many operas, and I love them," Bartoli says. "It's not possible to do everything. At this point, Verdi is not for me."

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