Anyone who thinks musicians on the touring circuit are all hard-boiled, cynical time-servers should have been at Friday night's concert which wowed a packed Symphony Hall.
Sheer pleasure and excitement radiated from the stage into the auditorium and back again, and at the centre was the enchanting presence of Cecilia Bartoli, still young, still endearingly youthful, and undoubtedly one of the world's greatest mezzo-sopranos.
Her "Opera Proibita" programme was a fascinating one, a sequence of arias composed for Roman audiences around the turn of the 18th century each Lent, when operatic presentations were officially banned. These equally theatrical offerings were garbed in the guise of oratorio, and provided vehicles for technical and emotional display so that the superstars of the period could continue to delight their fans.
Which is, of course, what Bartoli did here, bringing spectacular technical pyrotechnics to music by Handel and his contemporaries Alessandro Scarlatti and Caldara, but also immense emotional depths to reflective expressions of melancholy.
She is a markedly physical performer, every muscle working away in the cause of spitfire delivery of coloratura, but a less obvious example of this physicality is Bartoli's phenomenal control over her breathing, where she can launch seemingly unending phrases which probe further and further into the listener's consciousness and beyond.
But this was no mere beanfeast for canary-fanciers, as there was much to enthral the historian, too, such as one of Bartoli's four encores showing us that Bononcini anticipated Handel's Largo by four decades. And there was a bonus in the infectious enthusiasm brought by the conductorless Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, its members and their sparkling leader Petra Mullejans collaborating smilingly with blessed Cecilia.
Christopher Morley ..SUPL: