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Cecilia Bartoli becomes first woman to sing in Sistine Chapel with the all-male choir


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 11/24/17


For the past 500 years, beautiful sacred music has echoed up towards Michelangelo’s sublime ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, performed exclusively by male choirs. Until now. In a development that will delight both music lovers and reform-minded Catholics, one of the church’s gender taboos has finally been broken. Cecilia Bartoli, one of Italy’s most celebrated classical singers, has become the first woman to perform inside the chapel with the all-male Sistine Chapel Choir, as part of a unique musical project which draws on ancient, neglected musical archives of the Catholic church. On Friday night the mezzo-soprano joined the 20 men and 30 boys who make up the choir, among the oldest choral groups in the world, to sing Beata Viscera, by the Renaissance composer Pérotin. A few days before, the five-time Grammy award-winner told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she was “in seventh heaven” about the prospect of performing in the chapel, and [possibly] before Pope Francis. “It’s a huge privilege,” she added. Bartoli’s dream of meeting Pope Francis was not fulfilled – he was unable to attend the performance – but the singer made a huge impact on the choir. “She was incredible,” Mark Spyropoulos, the first British full-time member of the choir, told the Observer after the show. “She’s well known for her interpretations of early music and it was great for us to be recording with someone like that. Women sing with a different timbre to men, so to hear that sound, the wonderful richness that women sing with on that piece, is very unusual in the Sistine Chapel … because, of course, it’s an all-male choir.”

Read more.

Want a brief sampling of her amazing talent? Below is a recording of her “Ave Maria.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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