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Cecilia Bartoli Soars at Salzburg / New York Times interview

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When Cecilia Bartoli became artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in 2012, she celebrated by organizing the first festival under her leadership around Cleopatra. "Since a woman was in charge for the first time, I chose to focus on this fascinating woman," she said in an interview here.

The choice of program was typical of the opera superstar's hands-on approach to her new assignment. The main attraction of the festival program was Handel's "Giulio Cesare," with Ms. Bartoli starring as the irresistible queen of ancient Egypt. The theme also embraced other works, including Massenet's "Cleopatra." Now, after two years of Ms. Bartoli's leadership, the Salzburg Whitsun Festival - once a rather low-key event held annually under the auspices of the main Salzburg Festival - has become a must-see fixture on the opera calendar. Ms. Bartoli sang the title role in Bellini's "Norma" last year at her second Salzburg Whitsun Festival as artistic director. It won the International Opera Award for Best New Opera Production of 2013.