Opera stars singing popular music doesn't always work. The tone of the voice and training of the singer simply aren't the proper fit. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is a tremendous soprano. But back in the 1980s, she released a couple of albums that I refer to as Kiri Te Kanawa Mangles Broadway. (Popular as the "dream cast" recording of West Side Story was that she appeared in, I found it dismal.) There have been other opera/pop debacles through the years, though when paired with the right songs, a few come across wonderfully. (One of my favorites is Samuel Ramey Singis Rodgers & Hammerstein.)
Yesterday, we had two opera stars singing Broadway, with Marilyn Horne and Fredericka Von Stade, and they nailed "Bosom Buddies" from Mame like a gem.
From what appears to be the same broadcast, here's another time they got it right.
The musical Candide, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics primarily by Richard Wilbur, lends itself to opera singers, and a wonderful multi-disk CD was released in 1988. Beyond the richness of the full score, the final song, "Make Our Garden Grow," is a soaring paean that's gorgeous when any of the performers have a solid voice, but when those performers are not only opera singers, but legends, it becomes ethereal.
Here are (take a seat if you're an opera lover...) -- Renee Fleming, Elizabeth Futral, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Jerry Hadley (the 'Candide' of that aforementioned CD), Samuel Ramey, and Dwayne Croft -- and a full opera chorus singing the finale from Candide.
This comes from A Celebration of the American Musical performed at Avery Fisher Hall in April, 1997.
And this is how you do "Make Our Garden Grow." It's also one of those times when you just know that a 3-inch desktop speaker doesn't do this justice, and being there in the auditorium must have been other-worldly.
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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