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Italian Mezzo Makes US Opera Stage Debut

SHE came, she sang, and - like another Roman, centuries before her - Cecilia Bartoli conquered. The occasion was the North American stage debut of one of the hottest young singers to emerge on the classical music scene in years.

Miss Bartoli, a 26-year-old mezzo-soprano, has sung concerts and recitals in this country and is known through a series of best-selling recordings. But her sold-out appearance last Friday night in Rossini's "Il Barbiere Di Siviglia" (The Barber of Seville) with the Houston Grand Opera marked her first stage performance for an American audience.

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Bartoli has a lower, mezzo voice - "with an extension," she explains, which means that she is comfortable up to a ringing high C. "Some people say, `Oh, you sing only Rossini and Mozart!' But they wrote many, many operas, and I love them," Bartoli says. "It's not possible to do everything. At this point, Verdi is not for me."

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