Cinderella and Company: Backstage at the Opera with Cecilia Bartoli

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9780375707124: Cinderella and Company: Backstage at the Opera with Cecilia Bartoli

A wickedly funny look at opera today--the feuds and deals, maestros and managers, divine voices and outsized egos--and a portrait of the opera world's newest superstar at a formative point in her life and career.
        In Cinderella & Company, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Manuela Hoelterhoff takes us on a two-year trip on the circuit with Cecilia Bartoli, the young mezzo-soprano who has captured an adoring public around the world.
        Rossini's Cenerentola is Bartoli's signature role, and Cinderella & Company tells the fairy-tale story of her life, which started on a modest street in Rome where the Fiat was the coach of choice. The lucky break, the meteoric rise, the starlit nights and nail-chewing days are all part of a narrative that shows Bartoli rehearsing, playing, traveling, eating, and charming us with her vivacity and dazzling virtuosity.  
        Along the way, Hoelterhoff gives us an unusually vivid, behind-the-scenes look at the opera world. The first stop is Houston, where Bartoli brightens a droopy Cenerentola production; later scenes follow her to Disney World and to the Metropolitan Opera, where a fidgety cast awaits the flight-phobic mezzo's arrival for Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. Traveling to Santa Fe, Paris, Rome, Venice, and London, Hoelterhoff drops in on opening nights and boardroom meetings, talks to managers and agents, describes where the money comes from, and survives one of the longest galas in history.  
        Here too are tantalizing glimpses of divinities large and small: Kathleen Battle's famously chilly limousine ride; Plácido Domingo flying through three time zones to step into the boots of an ailing Otello; Luciano Pavarotti aiming for high C in his twilight years. And we meet the present players in Bartoli's world: Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, a.k.a. the Love Couple; Jane Eaglen, the Wagnerian web potato monitoring her cyberspace fan mail; the appealing soprano Renée Fleming, finally on the brink of stardom.  
        At once informed and accessible, Cinderella & Company brings the world of grand opera into sharp focus--right up to the last glimpse of Cecilia Bartoli waving triumphantly from Cinderella's wedding cake.

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Review:

The author defines her style at the beginning of this bright, gossipy book about one of opera's youngest superstars. Manuela Hoelterhoff starts off by discussing Rossini's Cinderella opera, La Cenerentola, which she then uses as a recurring metaphor throughout the book. Her description is accurate when she calls it "music that dances, whispers, charms and dazzles from beginning to end." But if one substitutes "prose" for "music" in that quote, she might well be writing about Cinderella & Company.

Hoelterhoff's style is deliciously appropriate for her chosen subject, the world of mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. It is even more suited to the story's background: the larger-than-life style of the world's great opera houses and the colorful personalities of many people found there--onstage, backstage, and even in the audience. In terms of eccentricity, Bartoli does not stand out; she has a fair share of phobias (flying, computers, microphones), and she cancels performances more frequently than her fans would like, but her primary interest is musical: a voice, not very powerful but beautiful, which she uses with a fine sense of bel canto style, considerable acting skill, and a careful choice of the right music.

Much of the book's appeal lies in its descriptions of people, which tend to be short, pungent, and devastatingly on target: Maria Callas, "the queen of whatever opera company she wasn't feuding with"; conductor Herbert von Karajan, who "had a reputation, entirely deserved, as a voice killer"; baritone Bryn Terfel, "a guy with the body of Meat Loaf and an exuberant performing style"; agent-publicist Herbert Breslin, "a motor-mouthed, bullet-headed ... egomaniac ... I used to go through the obituary section of the Times looking for his"; Luciano Pavarotti, a "crumbling monument"; and lots more. --Joe McLellan

From the Publisher:

"The most perceptive and hilariously honest book on the making and marketing of opera to come along in some time....For two years, Ms. Hoelterhoff had enviable access to Cecilia Bartoli and her circle: her mother, a former chorus soprano and still Ms. Bartoli's most trusted vocal coach; her worldly Italian boyfriend; her savvy manager, and a whole cast of recording executives and attendant conductors who pass through the story like comprimario characters in an opera buffa....Happily for readers, Ms. Hoelterhoff introduces us to just about everyone operatic she met during those two years, interspersed with collected bits of wisdom and gossip....Ms. Hoelterhoff is such an interesting observer and beguiling writer that you eagerly follow her anywhere.....Knowing of Ms. Hoelterhoff's reputation as an unsparing cirtic and reporter, it's amazing that so many people in the business talked with her so freely, most notably the powerful manager and public relations maestro Herbert Breslin. [His] soliloquy on how he and his prime client, Luciano Pavarotti, showed everyone how real money could be made in opera is breathtaking in its honesty and shamelessness.... The sections on Bartoli are the heart of the book. There is ample evidence of her superb musicianship, determination and unconventionally interesting career choices.....Ms. Bartoli's career is a juggernaut, and one can only hope she keeps her balance. Ms. Hoelterhoff makes few predictions, but it is immensely fun an informative to read her account of the problems."
-- Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

"Manuela Hoelterhoff has written a delightful and savvy book about the opera world and Cecilia
Bartoli--all world-class. It's a wonderful book!"
--Beverly Sills

"A naughtily witty tell-almost-all book that has the further advantage of being true...Cinderella & Company is very good on the circuslike aspects of real-life opera: the near psychotic egomania and secret insecurity, the cruel inside jokes ('How many divas does it take to screw in a light bulb? Just one. She holds the bulb and the world revolves around her.')...No less important is Hoelterhoff's cold-eyed grasp of the effects big money has on grand opera...Her fang marks can be spotted on nearly every page. ...But what makes Cinderella & Company more than just a book-length bloodletting is Hoelterhoff's unexpected sympathy for most of the singers about whom she writes."
--Terry Teachout, The New York Times

"Hilarious...Opera buffs will munch happily [on] these nuggets."
--Jesse Birnbaum, Time

"As witty a picture as the gossipiest opera lover could ask for"
--Publishers Weekly

"I couldn't put the book down...At its center is a sympathetic, warm-hearted portrait of one of the most gifted singers of today...But Cecilia Bartoli is seen in gossipy context: every big name
in the mad world of opera is here--Pavarotti, Tebaldi, Domingo, Levine, The Alagnas--and few escape Hoelterhoff's eagle eye or her wit, as dry and sparkling as the best champagne."
--Rodney Milnes, editor of Opera Magazine and chief opera critic of the London Times

"Vastly entertaining...enormously readable, often hilarious...Hoelterhoff puts her formidable
critical abilities to work in combination with an unsparing eye for foibles, a sharp ear for first-rate gossip, and a raconteur's gift."
--John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden

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Book Description VINTAGE, United States, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.A wickedly funny look at opera today--the feuds and deals, maestros and managers, divine voices and outsized egos--and a portrait of the opera world s newest superstar at a formative point in her life and career. In Cinderella Company, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Manuela Hoelterhoff takes us on a two-year trip on the circuit with Cecilia Bartoli, the young mezzo-soprano who has captured an adoring public around the world. Rossini s Cenerentola is Bartoli s signature role, and Cinderella Company tells the fairy-tale story of her life, which started on a modest street in Rome where the Fiat was the coach of choice. The lucky break, the meteoric rise, the starlit nights and nail-chewing days are all part of a narrative that shows Bartoli rehearsing, playing, traveling, eating, and charming us with her vivacity and dazzling virtuosity. Along the way, Hoelterhoff gives us an unusually vivid, behind-the-scenes look at the opera world. The first stop is Houston, where Bartoli brightens a droopy Cenerentola production; later scenes follow her to Disney World and to the Metropolitan Opera, where a fidgety cast awaits the flight-phobic mezzo s arrival for Mozart s Cosi fan tutte. Traveling to Santa Fe, Paris, Rome, Venice, and London, Hoelterhoff drops in on opening nights and boardroom meetings, talks to managers and agents, describes where the money comes from, and survives one of the longest galas in history. Here too are tantalizing glimpses of divinities large and small: Kathleen Battle s famously chilly limousine ride; Placido Domingo flying through three time zones to step into the boots of an ailing Otello; Luciano Pavarotti aiming for high C in his twilight years. And we meet the present players in Bartoli s world: Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, a.k.a. the Love Couple; Jane Eaglen, the Wagnerian web potato monitoring her cyberspace fan mail; the appealing soprano Renee Fleming, finally on the brink of stardom. At once informed and accessible, Cinderella Company brings the world of grand opera into sharp focus--right up to the last glimpse of Cecilia Bartoli waving triumphantly from Cinderella s wedding cake. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780375707124

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