Choice Dates for Season : Music: Philharmonic Society's '95 recitals will feature soprano Cecilia Bartoli in her O.C. debut and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Exciting young coloratura mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, hailed almost universally as proof that the golden age of singing is not dead, will make her Orange County debut next year as part of an expanded Philharmonic Society season for 1995-96.

Society officials also announced that they will bring violinist Itzhak Perlman back to the county for a recital. Both programs will take place at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

The rest of the season will be announced over the next several months.

"We were incredibly lucky to get her," society Executive Director Dean Corey said Tuesday of Bartoli, 27, who will sing on Sept. 21, 1995. "She had only one date open. I went ahead, even though I wasn't even sure I could get the hall. I said I'd find a hall some place. Lo and behold, we got the center.

"I had thought about the Irvine Barclay and charging a high ticket price, but I decided we should have her for her first time here where as many people as possible could hear her."

A native of Rome, Bartoli was born to parents who both sang in the Rome Opera chorus. Her mother, who sang under the name Silvana Bazzoni, became her first and only voice teacher.

Bartoli made her opera debut at age 9 as the offstage shepherd in the last act of Puccini's "Tosca" for the Rome Opera. She then took a rebellious teen-age detour for a few years, studying and performing flamenco dance, but returned to music, enrolling for special classes at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome when she was 17.

Her career got a major boost three years later when she was introduced by opera stars Katia Riciarelli and Leo Nucci on an Italian television program. Shortly afterward, she was engaged by conductors Daniel Barenboim and Herbert von Karajan.

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Subsequently, she made her operatic debuts at La Scala, Le Bastille Opera in Paris, the Liceo in Barcelona and the Maggio Musicale in Florence, as well as concert appearances in major international cities.

Her "If You Love Me" album, a collection of Arie antiche or 18th-Century Italian love songs , was at the top of the Billboard classical charts for months. Several other Bartoli albums have cracked the Top 20.

Reviewing a collection of Mozart concert arias, with pianist Andras Schiff and the Vienna Kammerorchester led by Gyorgy Fischer, Times music critic Martin Bernheimer wrote: "If Bartoli sounds on the stage as she does on this record, she must be one of the most formidable stylists and one of the most virtuosic technicians of our time."

Resisting typecasting, Bartoli is scheduled to make her Metropolitan Opera debut in January, 1996, as a soprano, singing Despina in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte." She has sung Zerlina, another soprano role, in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" at La Scala in Milan.

Perlman, who will play about a month after Bartoli (Oct. 18, 1995), is one of the best-known and most widely admired violinists of his generation.

Born in Israel in 1945, he was stricken by poliomyelitis when he was 4, lost the use of his legs and to this day must walk on crutches. His interest in the violin dates from his period of convalescing.

He began violin studies at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv and continued with famed pedagogues Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School in New York. He won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964 and has appeared with virtually every major orchestra in the world. His discography is extensive.

Although he had appeared with several orchestras in the county, Perlman didn't make his Orange County recital debut until 1991 in a program sponsored by the Philharmonic Society.

Corey called him "one of the few artists who will just get greater as they go along. He is ageless, no matter what kind of competition will spring up."

The Bartoli and Perlman recitals will be available as part of regular subscription series, for which tickets go on sale Feb. 1. Information: (714) 553-2422.

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