A few years back, I was listening to what is known as the Humming Chorus from the opera, Madame Butterfly, by Giacomo Puccini, and had one of my occasional revelations. It's that the song "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables is based on it. I was particularly convinced since the people who wrote Les Miserables -- Claude-Michael Schonberg and Alain Boubil -- also wrote the musical Miss Saigon -- which is based on... Madame Butterfly. So, clearly they were well-acquainted with the material.
(I don't say this pejoratively. I like it when composers work other pieces into their work as homages. Beethoven used what's now known as "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" in his Wellington's Victory. That hardly diminishes Beethoven.)
I just now have become even more convinced that composer Jean-Michael Schonberg likes to work classical music into his pieces. The other day I was listening to "Gavotte with Six Variations" by Jean-Philippe Rameau -- and it's clearly the inspiration for the song "Castle on a Cloud" from Boubil-Schonberg's Les Miserables (with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer.)
And given that they are French as was Rameau, it makes it even more likely that a trained musician would know his country's musical heritage.
For those who might forget how "Castle on a Cloud" goes, here's a short version --
And here is Rameau's Gavotte. No need to listen to the whole thing, only about the first minute. After all this is "Six Variations," so after the first go-round the melody gets deeply adapted. The piece is written for harpsichord, but this is an orchestral arrangement, which I decided to use since it more closely approximates the sound of the stage musical. And to be clear, it's not the full piece of Rameau music that's the basis of the song, but the main theme, which Schonberg then built on.
By the way, as long as I brought up "Bring Him Home" and "The Humming Chorus," which are what first made me aware of the team's interweaving classical music into their shows, I figure I might as well toss those in here, as well.
To refresh your memory, here's the original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson singing "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables.
(Side note: in a nice touch, when they made the movie of Les Miserables the filmmakers had to good sense and decency to get Colm Wilkinson into the film. He played the priest at the beginning who takes in Jean Valjean as an escaped prisoner.)
And here is the "Humming Chorus" from Madame Butterfly.
I am absolutely convinced that this is the inspiration for "Bring Him Home." Not just because of how similar they sound (listen particularly at the 40-second mark), or the Madame Butterfly connection, but how the last notes as it builds to a high crescendo finish spot-on the same.
Not to mention now knowing they did the same thing with "Castle on a Cloud."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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