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Cecilia Bartoli - St. Petersburg / New York Times review

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It's fun to imagine the reaction of record-company executives when Cecilia Bartoli, the Italian mezzo-soprano and best-selling recording artist, announced her latest passion. She has made a specialty of performing long-neglected music. Even her 1999 Vivaldi Album, which first shot her to the top of the classical charts, was a gamble on a composer popularly associated with violin music. Since then, she has championed the repertoire of the 19th-century diva Maria Malibran; the music written for castrati; and the work of Agostino Steffani, an 18th-century composer, cleric and spy.

This month, Ms. Bartoli embarked on a European concert tour to promote St. Petersburg, a Decca CD containing the world premiere recordings of 10 arias and one choral scene written for a succession of empresses - Anna, Elizabeth and Catherine the Great - who ruled and transformed Russia in the 18th century. Most are sung in Italian; two in Russian. READ THE FULL New York Times REVIEW.