1. The Polar Music Prize Ceremony
2. A musical identity
3. An interest for "old music"
4. Opera and arts
5. The Bartoli Phenomen
2016 Laureate


The Polar Music Prize 2016 is awarded to the mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli from Rome, Italy. With a vocal range of three octaves and a unique ability to live a role with fullness of expression, Cecilia Bartoli has developed song as an art form. Cecilia Bartoli has spellbound audiences in the world's great opera houses, but is not content with the well-known repertoire. She has also dug deeply into the history of music and presented long-lost music from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that is completely new to today’s audiences. Cecilia Bartoli adds new chapters to the history of music, builds bridges between centuries and deepens our understanding of Europe's cultural heritage. Cecilia Bartoli shows us that raised voices can change the world.


The Laureates entering the stage

The Ceremony

Cecilia Bartoli and Max Martin received the Polar Music Prize on June 16, 2016 during ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall. Several Swedish artists honored the Laureates together with the The Royal Stockholm Philarmonic Orchestra, led by maestro Hans Ek. Artists performing in tribute to Max Martin and Cecilia Bartoli, included Peter Jöback, Seinabo Sey, Amanda Bergman, Ann Hallenberg, Lena Willemark and folk music group Väsen.

Cecilia Bartoli said, on receiving her Award: "I am so excited! Thank you very much for this wonderful prize. I am deeply honoured and I am very proud. Thank you to the Polar Music Prize for supporting and promoting the universal values of music. For me, music is emotion, passion and humanity. I strongly believe in the power of music and I am here to share my belief with all of you!”

The Stockholm Concert Hall

Kerstin Avemo performing "In Uomini, In Soldati" from Cosi fan tutte

Ann Hallenberg and Väsen performing "Lascia la Spina"

Cecilia Bartoli receives the Polar Music Prize 2016

I am so excited! Thank you very much for this wonderful prize. I am deeply honoured and I am very proud. Thank you to the Polar Music Prize for supporting and promoting the universal values of music. For me, music is emotion, passion and humanity. I strongly believe in the power of music and I am here to share my belief with all of you!

Cecilia Bartoli, 2016

The banquet

Jason Timbuktu Diakité was the master of ceremonies at the banquet at Grand Hôtel, where the celebration continued with amazing performances by Swedish and international artists; Ebbot Lundberg, Kim Cesarion, Sabina Ddumba, Kristin Amparo, Damn!, Frida Johansson, Carl Ackerfeldt, Henrik Måwe, Jamie Cullum and a surprise all star band with Max Martin’s friends – and daughter!: Klas Åhlund, Alexander Kronlund, Robyn, E-type, Shellback, Carl Falck and many more.

Grand Hôtel

Marie Ledin

Carl Ackerfeldt and Frida Johansson performing a piece from "The Magic Flute" accompanied by Henrik Måwe

Family studies

Cecilia Bartoli was born in Rome in 1966 in a musical home with both parents being musicians. Her childhood and adolescence were filled with music, and she started vocal training with her mother Silvana Bazzoni by the age of 10.

Until today, Mrs Bazzoni remains Bartoli’s sole vocal teacher during her life and career, even when she studied at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome.


Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome

The Fach system

During her formation as a singer, Cecilia Bartoli emerged as a coloratura mezzosopran with a high C, according to the Fach system.

The German Fach system is a classification of voices by range, weight and colour. This system was widely used in the German opera houses of the 19th and 20th centuries in order to “distinguish between the various types of singing voices and stipulate which operatic roles are suitable,” according to the Grove Dictionary of Music. 

The Fach system is still used today by singers and opera houses around the world, mostly as guidance for opera singers to know their range and consequently which type of role to focus on. However, its use today is not as rigid as the German houses’ in the past centuries, artists sing roles based on the role’s comfort in their voices, not just based on the Fach in which they occur.

Stage debuts

Bartoli actually made her debut on stage already at 9, playing the shepherd boy in Puccini’s Tosca, where her father was part of the chorus. Then, at 19 years old she made her ”grown up debut” in Rossini’s Barbiere di Siviglia at the opera house in her home city of Rome.

There was no real career plan for music, Cecilia Bartoli herself remembers, she ”simply just made music, music and always more music…” But her career began slowly to ascend, a talent show brought her to the Radiotelevisione Italiana in front of the cameras, and she continued to perform the classics on the Opera stages in Europe. It was during a gala concert in memory of Maria Callas that Daniel Barenboim, at the time leader of the Orchestra de Paris, saw her and invited her to work with him.

Cecilia Bartoli in Il Barbiere Di Siviglia, 1988

A meeting in the interest for ancient music

Fellow Polar Music Prize Laureate, late Nikolaus Harnoncourt, also got acquainted to Bartoli’s talent in the beginning of her career, and an artistic collaboration started to grow.

These two artistic personalities converged in their passion and curiosity for music from past centuries. Together they worked on making contemporary art of the most exciting kind from so-called "ancient music", and the collaboration lasted for years.

Harnoncourt & Bartoli, Haydn: Armida

Historical music

In recent years, her work has begun to focus on collaborations with the most significant baroque orchestras, playing and interpreting faithfully on period-instruments from 16th century and onwards; Akademie für Alte Musik, Les Arts Florissants, I Barocchisti, Harnoncourt's Concentus Musicus Wien, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Il Giardino Armonico, Basle Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Matheus, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Zurich period orchestra La Scintilla…

Projects with orchestras in which Cecilia Bartoli assumes the overall artistic responsibility have also become increasingly important to her and were crowned by programmes jointly developed and performed with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Naturally Cecilia Bartoli has also sung with many leading symphony orchestras. The highlights of this work were programmes, which she developed and performed with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Ensemble des Arts Florissants (Source: Denis-Rouvre)

Collaborations on ancient music

A new approach to history in music

Bartoli certainly shares her passion - and curiosity - for music in many ways. She goes one step further in the exploration of historical music, and iscensätter helt och hållet historia i musik. She digs into history to bring froward great personalities and happenings from the past into the present, always combined with the love for ”forgotten music.” : The Vivaldi Album, Italian Arias (Gluck), The Salieri Album, Opera proibita, Maria, Sacrificium, Mission and St. Petersburg have been awarded a large number of recording prizes, including five Grammys. On St Petersburg, the music has been intricately researched by Cecilia herself, unlocking the archives of St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Library to uncover music lost for over 200 years.

The Vivalvi Album & The Salieri Album


The album tells the stories of the 18th century castrats, young boys in Italy who, as a consequence of poverty, were castrated in order to keep their childhood voices, and therefore bring fame and fortune back to their families as spectacular singers. The range of the castrates can today be compared to the one of the mezzosopranos, Bartoli tells a whole and initiated part of musical history by reinterpreting the roles of famous castrates such as Farinelli and Carestini.

”The castrats, Bartoli says, were the pop stars, the Michael Jacksons of the 18th century.”


Bartoli tells the story of a Renaissance composer Agostino Steffani, Catholic priest, diplomat and Bishop of Spiga, but also a composer in the transition between the Renaissance and the baroque eras, being a great inspiration to Haendel for example. The album was released in 2012.


With the release of Maria in 2008, Bartoli guides the listener through the early 19th century and the age of Italian Romanticism and bel canto, through the story of legendary mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran (1808-1836). Bartoli  combines story telling and interpretations of bel canto that Malibran was famous for. The album marked Malibran’s 200th birthday, and received the Edison Award and Belgian Prix Caecilia.

Rounding off this homage to Maria Malibran and the “Romantic Revolution” were the first complete recording of La sonnambula with period instruments and a mezzo-soprano in the title role (with Juan Diego Flórez as Elvino) and a historically informed rendering of Norma at the Dortmund Konzerthaus in June 2010, with Cecilia Bartoli in the title role.

Opera, music and arts

In 2012 Cecilia Bartoli became the Artistic Director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival – the first woman in this position. Here she also interpreted the powerful portrait of Norma (Bellini’s opera from 1831) and also debuts as Maria in West Side Story in 2016.

I have always been convinced that there are no boundaries between the genres when it concerns good music, that everybody should be able to enjoy a baroque aria as well as the latest pop song.

Cecilia Bartoli, 2016

International recognition

Major locations in her stage career so far have included the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden London, the Scala in Milan, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Zürich Opera and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées Paris.

Cecilia Bartoli as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare in Egitto at the Salzburger Festspiele 2012. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Cecilia Bartoli has received the highest state honours – in Italy she is "Cavaliere", in France "Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur" and "Officier des Arts et des Lettres."

Famous institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Swedish Music Academy have made her an honorary member; others such as University College Dublin have awarded her an honorary doctorate. In 2010 she was honoured with the Léonie-Sonning Music Prize. Cecilia Bartoli received the Herbert-von-Karajan Prize in Baden-Baden in 2012.

More than 10 million of her audio and video recordings have been sold worldwide. Her recordings have occupied the top positions in the international pop charts for more than 100 weeks. According to these figures, Cecilia Bartoli is currently the world's most successful classical artist.

The medal of the “Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres”

Greetings from Cecilia Bartoli!

Content of biography is presented here as it was published in 2016.

Header photo and portrait by © DECCA/Uli Weber

All pictures from Polar Talks, the ceremony and the banquet by Annika Berglund, © Polar Music Prize