Yesterday, I had a video of Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur reuniting to recreate their classic performance of "Bosom Buddies" from Mame. As I noted at the there, simple as the song appears, it requires a great deal of subtlety and comic timing. But more than that, given that the song is about two very longtime friends, it requires the two performers to have a sense of history. The song is, of course, fine without it (it's a funny song) -- but it loses it's richness and texture. When done in the context of the musical, you get that sense of history from the characters. Outside the show, though, two singers stuck together, it just doesn't come across the same. There was a wonderful tribute to composer Jerry Herman done at the Hollywood Bowl (first-aired on PBS and now available on DVD), and they put two perfectly fine singers on stage, and the number was...nice, but that was sort of it.
I've seen a number of other actresses team up to perform it, but (for me) it always just misses.
And then I came across this version.
What we have here are two of the great American opera singers -- the legendary Marilyn Horne and the tremendous Frederica Von Stade. And they do have a long, very real, personal history together. Jackie and Flicka, as they're known by their nicknames (which is used in the performance here). To which is added the awareness that the world of opera is know for its dramatic rivalries. So, though you know it's just a song, you also know they're having great fun with their long past as actual friends and real-world competitors. There is a sub-text here that most performances don't and can't have. It just adds to the texture and fun. Down even to their exit from the stage.
Opera singers don't always do a great job with popular songs. Their voices aren't of quite the right tone. But Marilyn Horne and Frederica Von Stade knock this song out of the park. It comes from A Celebration of the American Musical Theater, done at Avery Fisher Hall in 1997.
This, too, is how it's done.
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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