Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

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lennygoran
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Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by lennygoran » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:05 am

We've been talking about her recently and now it's off to Broadway! Regards, Len :D


A ‘Carousel’ Revival Promises Stars, Onstage and Off

By MICHAEL PAULSON APRIL 16, 2017


“Carousel,” one of the greatest of American musicals, is returning to Broadway next season with an all-star cast that includes an opera diva and a creative team that includes a ballet world wunderkind.

The producers Scott Rudin and Roy Furman plan to revive the show next spring, with Jessie Mueller as Julie Jordan, Joshua Henry as Billy Bigelow, and Renée Fleming as Nettie Fowler. Ms. Fleming, of course, is a renowned soprano who might be stepping away from staged opera after a production of “Der Rosenkavalier” that just opened at the Metropolitan Opera; Ms. Mueller won a Tony Award for “Beautiful”; and Mr. Henry is now starring as Aaron Burr in the touring production of “Hamilton.”

The revival, scheduled to open on March 23 in an unspecified theater, is to be directed by Jack O’Brien, a three-time Tony winner (for “Hairspray,” “Henry IV” and “The Coast of Utopia”) who is now directing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on Broadway. And it will be choreographed by Justin Peck, the 29-year-old dancer who is a resident choreographer of the New York City Ballet.

“It’s one of the greatest American scores of all time,” said Mr. Peck, who had first encountered “Carousel” via the 1956 movie, and had since watched a 1994 Lincoln Center Theater revival on video and attended a 2015 production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Mr. Peck said he had studied the work of the original choreographer, Agnes De Mille, and that “I’m hoping to both pay homage to what she did originally, and to extend the show further into new territory.” He added that he expected the new revival would “be an even more dance-and-movement-focused production,” taking new steps toward integrating the show’s elements.

Two of Mr. Peck’s City Ballet colleagues will be featured: Amar Ramasar as Jigger, and Brittany Pollack as Louise.

“Carousel,” with music by Richard Rodgers and a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is set in 19th-century New England, and tells the story of an ill-fated romance between a millworker, Julie Jordan, and a carnival barker, Billy Bigelow. The score features such standards as “If I Loved You” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The original production, adapted from the play “Liliom,” opened on Broadway in 1945, and there have been four revivals since. Writing about a 1954 revival, the New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson called it “the most glorious of the Rodgers and Hammerstein works.” The most recent version, in 1994, won five Tony Awards, including the first of what is now six for Audra McDonald.

“It’s a very complicated, very rich, very spiritual tapestry about reconciliation and redemption and being responsible for what we do,” said Mr. O’Brien, 77, who in 1959 played Enoch Snow in a student production of the show at the University of Michigan.



https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/thea ... front&_r=0

Belle
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:54 am

This is very interesting to read. I don't even know of the character whom Fleming will play but I detest the idea of 'cross-over' altogether and I'm not sure I'd like to see her in that musical.

"Carousel", the film, was magnificently sung and danced. Over the years the score has increasingly appeared to me as somewhat mawkish, especially "You'll Never Walk Alone". I don't regard it as Rodgers and Hammerstein's greatest work; that must go to "Oklahoma". However, I do find myself agreeing with Howard Goodall on the topic of great American musical theatre and Rodgers and Hammerstein's place in that!! Goodall claims that Cole Porter was the superior composer! Highly recommended viewing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2htSTN1crU

lennygoran
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by lennygoran » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:47 am

Belle wrote:
Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:54 am
"You'll Never Walk Alone"
Belle that's what Fleming will get to sing--also "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" – Nettie Fowler and Chorus--also "This Was a Real Nice Clambake" – Carrie, Nettie, Julie, Enoch and Chorus.

BTW former opera star Shirley Verrett also sang Nettie-Verrett was a soprano we really enjoyed over the years. Regards, Len

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by maestrob » Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:58 am

lennygoran wrote:
Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:47 am
Belle wrote:
Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:54 am
"You'll Never Walk Alone"
Belle that's what Fleming will get to sing--also "June Is Bustin' Out All Over" – Nettie Fowler and Chorus--also "This Was a Real Nice Clambake" – Carrie, Nettie, Julie, Enoch and Chorus.

BTW former opera star Shirley Verrett also sang Nettie-Verrett was a soprano we really enjoyed over the years. Regards, Len
Yes, Verett turned herself into a successful soprano during her operatic career (her Lady MacBeth was magnificent.), but by the time she did Carousel Verett had descended into mezzo territory again, with a huge sound that overwhelmed the theater. Absolutely fabulous!

John F
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:19 pm

Crossovers from opera to Broadway can be very successful indeed. Consider Ezio Pinza in the first cast of "South Pacific" and "Fanny," and Robert Weede in "The Most Happy Fella." Whether Renée Fleming will fly or flop remains to be seen. Crossovers in the other direction are far rarer because voices suited to the smaller Broadway houses, with amplification, rarely have what it takes to be adequately heard at the Met. I can't think of any offhand. Bea Arthur and Marian Seldes appeared at the Met but only in the spoken role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti's "Fille du régiment."
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lennygoran
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by lennygoran » Tue Apr 18, 2017 7:12 pm

John F wrote:
Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:19 pm
Bea Arthur and Marian Seldes appeared at the Met but only in the spoken role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti's "Fille du régiment."
Amazing-I sure didn't know that. Regards, Len :lol:

Belle
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:08 pm

Reminds me of Australian ballet dancer Robert Helpmann when he was walking around the stage in the ballet "Don Quixote". Superannuated dancers tend to do that!!

Belle
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Wed Apr 19, 2017 7:11 am

I wouldn't mind seeing a modern stage production of a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Some years ago "Oklahoma" was presented at the National Theatre in London with our Hugh Jackman in the role of Curly and broadcast on television. Decades ago when I worked at our national broadcaster, the ABC, I had the opportunity to meet the director of the first Broadway production of "Oklahoma" in 1943 - Rouben Mamoulian - who was sitting in the next office to mine. But I hadn't heard of him then so I declined the offer of a personal meet and greet!!!!!!!

It remains enigmatic to me why Renee Fleming would want to be involved in "Carousel", particularly in a part which isn't a main role. In the film of the mid-50s Barbara Ruick played the role of Julie's friend, Carrie. Ruick was married to the film composer John Williams and died suddenly at the age of 43 from a cerebral hemorrhage while making a film for Robert Altman.

The part I loved the most about the film "Carousel" was the magnificent dancing, particularly the ballet sequence with the carousel and the 'daughter' of Curly and Julie. Who would sit through a 15 minute dance sequence in a film today?

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Wed Apr 19, 2017 9:52 am

Belle wrote:It remains enigmatic to me why Renee Fleming would want to be involved in "Carousel", particularly in a part which isn't a main role.
Not an enigma to me: Nettie Fowler has two of the show's three hit tunes, "June is bustin' out all over" and "You'll never walk alone." Also, the lead female part in this musical, a physically abused wife who rationalizes it, is hardly Renee Fleming's kind of role. It also occurs to me that Fleming's engagement for this isn't likely to be for very many weeks, so if the revival has a long run, replacing her should be simpler than replacing the female lead.
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Belle
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:11 pm

"Rosenkavalier" to "Carousel". Yep; enigmatic.

John F
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Thu Apr 20, 2017 12:25 am

No more so than Don Giovanni and Figaro to Emile De Becque. In fact less so, because Renée Fleming grew up in the land of the Broadway musical, which didn't exist in Italy or indeed on Broadway in Pinza's youth. Fleming has been noted for trying new repertoire in both old and new opera and songs; the list of what she's done in Wikipedia, though far from complete (it doesn't include Messiaen's "Poemes pour mi" with the New York Philharmonic) is astonishing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9 ... #Repertory

This is an adventurous artist, and a couple of months on Broadway in a classic musical is a new adventure that she obviously wants to try. It may lead to nothing more; some of her experiments, such as Eva in "Die Meistersinger" at Bayreuth, were promptly dropped, but she had actually done them instead of just deciding they were not for her and saving herself the trouble.
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Belle
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Thu Apr 20, 2017 2:03 am

Seems there are some other non-believers!!

http://slippedisc.com/2017/04/renee-fle ... e-jenkins/

John F
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:10 am

If you read the responses, it looks like there are no nonbelievers. As for the author of the Slipped Disc column itself, that's Norman Lebrecht, and you've been a CMG member long enough to know that his comments are worthless.

I read further about Ezio Pinza and "South Pacific." When he agreed to do it, Hammerstein revamped the plot so that Emile's relationship with Nellie would be the main line, making them the stars of the show instead of the young lovers; he and Rodgers gave Pinza "Some enchanted evening."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmpGPXilt88

Also, Pinza's contract specified that he would not be required to sing more than 15 minutes in each performance, so giving 8 performances a week wouldn't overtax his voice. In those days the singing on Broadway was done without amplification; today, all musicals here use amplification, further relieving any strain on the singers' voices.
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jserraglio
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by jserraglio » Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:54 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DEgdM0jk0A



My favorite, even more than the one on the excellent Reprise "Concert Sinatra" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-z8VpLEHHk is Sinatra's understated one of 1 May 1945, recorded even before the Carousel cast album.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrGHJIblXCs



Image

Belle
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Thu Apr 20, 2017 11:50 am

I'm just not a fan of cross-over. Here's another. Bryn Terfel:

http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4491632?

And Kiri ta Kanawa:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMIDfTcMuAM

Both charming in their own right, but these shows were written for Broadway, not for opera houses. In becoming vehicles for (superannuated, sometimes) opera singers the works transform into Lehars and Herberts. Look back at some of the appearances on TV in the 1950s of theatre singers performing Rodgers and Hammerstein and see how different is their aesthetic when not faux 'operatic'. The song "You'll Never Walk Alone" has become something of a cliche. Shirley Jones was preferred by Rodgers and Hammerstein and she was most definitely not of an operatic tradition but more like Julie Andrews. There's a big difference in the acting and vocal delivery which, IMO, is more theatre musical than operetta.

(In fact, one of the arguments used by Howard Goodall in his excellent series "Twentieth Century Greats", where he compared Cole Porter with Rodgers and Hammerstein, Goodall believes the latter's musicals were straight from the Viennese tradition - unlike the highly original, urbane and sophisticated Porter who broke away from that and created something entirely new.)

Here's the English "Oklahoma" and I think it serves the music very well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5DXLJgotrY

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Thu Apr 20, 2017 1:04 pm

Belle wrote:these shows were written for Broadway, not for opera houses.
Immaterial. Is there more to that complaint than snobbery? George Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess" - and it is a full-fledged opera, not a musical - was despite this first performed on Broadway, for reasons that were compelling in America in the 1930s but no longer obtain. Likewise Virgil Thomson's "Four Saints in Three Acts." Paul Robeson, a powerful actor with a magnificent bass voice, got no closer to the Met than 50th Street's Casino Theatre, as Joe in "Show Boat." Remember "Ol' Man River"? But here he is in the death scene from "Boris Godunov."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4GhwWIvd6E

As for "South Pacific," the role of Emil De Beque was tailor-made for Ezio Pinza; as the Wikipedia article on the musical says, after he was signed to play the role, songs were written specifically with his talents in mind. Has anybody ever sung "Some enchanted evening" better? That's not a rhetorical question but a challenge. The American Theatre Wing awarded the 1950 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical to Pinza. It was no contest. By the way, in the Hollywood movie, we see Rossano Brazzi on the screen but hear the operatic bass Giorgio Tozzi on the soundtrack. And in the recent Broadway revival, Emile was the Brazilian bass-baritone Paulo Szot, who at about the same time was singing at the Met in Shostakovich's "The Nose." This is not a role for the likes of Alfred Drake or Howard Keel.

Of course it's true that when classical singers cross over into pop or jazz repertoire for an encore, many may have no sense of style. But it doesn't have to be so, and it isn't always so. Leonard Bernstein's "Candide," though written for Broadway and cast mainly with Broadway singer-actors (and one actor who could barely sing), had three opera singers who blended seamlessly into the show: tenors Robert Rounseville (Candide) and William Olvis (Governor of Buenos Aires) and Irra Petina (old lady). Here she is:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiuYA6ZSOVs
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jserraglio
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by jserraglio » Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:31 pm

Candide. A crossover masterwork.

Operatic voices Leontyne Price and William Warfield in the sensational Berlin recording of Porgy in the '52 tour recording of Gershwin's masterpiece.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F9k0BXvu_hs

John F
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:22 pm

Since "Porgy and Bess" is an opera, it's best sung with "operatic" voices in most of the roles, though Sportin' Life is the exception. The first Porgy, Todd Duncan, was an operatic baritone, and while he couldn't sing with the major American opera companies because of racism, he did sing Tonio and Escamillo at New York City Opera in 1945. His Bess, Anne Brown, studied at Juilliard and eventually with Lotte Lehmann and Paul Althouse, the latter's other pupils including Richard Tucker, Astrid Varnay, Eleanor Steber, and Léopold Simoneau. While still a student, she sang the role of Bess as Gershwin was composing it, and in the premiere. Eventually she moved to Norway; her opera appearances included Menotti's "The Medium," though she was mainly a concert singer.
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jserraglio
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by jserraglio » Thu Apr 20, 2017 4:36 pm

Indeed, in the 1952 performance of Gershwin's opera, jazz singer/bandleader Cab Calloway plays Sporting Life—not to be missed as accompanied by Alexander Smallens, the orchestral/opera conductor. Let the genres mingle!

Light opera and musical theater often cross pollinate performers. Candide (a musical later turned into an opera? operetta?) and less successfully West Side Story. I like Kalman's operettas, some of which made it to Broadway in their day: we have a company here that performs Kalman, G & S, Herbert and American musicals and lots of the audience are speaking European languages during intermissions. I see no problem with good singers of one type crossing over to enrich the other.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=becCJhBKXAI

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:21 pm

"Candide" was written as a cross-over by a composer who had his feet in cross-over (just look at the balletic "West Side Story"), straight musical comedy and serious art music. And he did it brilliantly!! I notice that Kiri appeared in the 1985 recording of "West Side Story" which Bernstein himself conducted, but Marni Nixon sang in the film.

John, it's not snobbery that causes me to comment about crossover. That's an intellectually lazy remark to make and it surprises me that it's come from you. I have much of this music in my library. It's a question of what the composer's original intentions were, for good or ill. Was it written for Broadway or The Met? As I said, Richard Rodgers preferred a non-operatic star for his filmed musicals...Shirley Jones. And, of course, Mitzi Gaynor controversially appeared in "South Pacific". I've read quite a few books on the American Music Theatre of that period. Did Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein write "June is Bustin' Out All Over" for an operatic soprano?

And "Ole Man River" is indeed sung by an operatic bass; again, this is entirely consistent with the Viennese operetta tradition from which such musicals take their influence. But "Showboat" was written for the Broadway stage and it's interesting that the character who sings "Ole Man River" virtually has none or very little dialogue (as I recall) in the musical. He is a 'type'. Compare this splendid song with the somewhat archaic but delightful song and dance routine of the Champions:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZprGYcQ-HI

The overall theme of "Showboat" (an entertainment outfit) allows for the eclectic music that Kern masterfully produced for it. But it's not for the opera stage.

There are plenty of critics, myself included, of the score of "South Pacific". In my opinion it's R&H's weakest. "Some Enchanted Evening" is performed and structured as an operatic aria as you suggest, but does it suit (the suspected felon) Emile - the love-interest of Nellie? I don't think it does, particularly alongside "Honey Bun" and "Bloody Mary". It's a highly eclectic score but not one which flashes in lights to me "needs to be sung by an opera singer". I've never doubted the place of "Porgy and Bess" in the operatic canon. It was a work of huge importance to George Gershwin who, as you know, wanted to write more serious music.

In the end, as per the previous comment, it might simply come down to personal preference.

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by jserraglio » Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:42 pm

Belle wrote:
Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:21 pm
"Candide" was written as a cross-over by a composer who had his feet in cross-over (just look at the balletic "West Side Story") and serious art music. And he did it brilliantly!!
As you say. he did it brilliantly, but LB allowed Candide to be adapted (book not music) into a more serious "opera" in the mid eighties. As I recall, Beverly Sills considered the revised version an opera. And Bernstein's recording always struck me as operatic, and a good one at that, though it doesn't fully supersede the OC recording. Anyway, whether they be tagged as fish or fowl, Candide and West Side Story put a lot of more serious works, including his own, in the shade.

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by John F » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:10 pm

Belle, I've been pounding away at trying to demonstrate that fine opera singers can sing idiomatically in Broadway musicals, depending of course on the musical. Today's "Hamilton," whose music is hip-hop, defies that kind of crossover. But the musicals of most of the 20th century are not so different in kind from operetta and before that singspiel that they actually demand lesser voices or a radically different voice production. What they do require is that the performers make the most of their numbers in the context of the play, its content and style. And while the same may not be true of "Il Trovatore," it's definitely true of "Falstaff."

Filmed musicals are not what we're talking about; casting in movies has more to do with how the actors look than in either opera or Broadway. How else to explain the casting of Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" in place of Julie Andrews? Hepburn couldn't even sing, her numbers were dubbed by Marni Nixon. Since you've brought it up, however, I'll repeat that in the film of "South Pacific," Emile was acted by Rossano Brazzi but sung by the Metropolitan Opera bass Giorgio Tozzi. I'm not aware that Rodgers or Hammerstein objected, and you really can't explain it away. Mitzi Gaynor did Hollywood musicals as Mary Martin did Broadway musicals, but there's nothing in their music or their role to preclude an outstanding operatic singing actress such as Teresa Stratas or Karita Mattila from singing and acting it just as well, if she wanted to. If you think otherwise, why?

You make an issue of the fact that certain shows were written for Broadway, not for opera houses, but you don't explain why this matters. Historically, opera companies have been housed in Broadway theatres, for example Fritz Busch's New Opera Company in 1941-2, and vice versa - until 2006 the Theater an der Wien was used for opera during the Wiener Festwochen and long-running large-scale musicals like "Cats" and "Elisabeth" the rest of the year. The English National Opera has produced "Sweeney Todd"; New York City Opera did one or two musicals a season for several years. (I saw Frank Loesser's "The Most Happy Fella" there with Louis Quilico.) Several of Menotti's operas had long Broadway runs. If there's a definable distinction between these works of musical theatre, it isn't geography but genre, and I haven't seen it here.
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lennygoran
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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by lennygoran » Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:52 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Thu Apr 20, 2017 3:31 pm
Candide. A crossover masterwork.
That's right-even with the cast we saw this season at NYCO it was just wonderful-a wonderful production as well ! Regards, Len :D

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming

Post by Belle » Thu Apr 20, 2017 8:09 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:42 pm
Belle wrote:
Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:21 pm
"Candide" was written as a cross-over by a composer who had his feet in cross-over (just look at the balletic "West Side Story") and serious art music. And he did it brilliantly!!
As you say. he did it brilliantly, but LB allowed Candide to be adapted (book not music) into a more serious "opera" in the mid eighties. As I recall, Beverly Sills considered the revised version an opera. And Bernstein's recording always struck me as operatic, and a good one at that, though it doesn't fully supersede the OC recording. Anyway, whether they be tagged as fish or fowl, Candide and West Side Story put a lot of more serious works, including his own, in the shade.
I love most everything Bernstein did and I admire all his other accomplishments, which were considerable. I regard "West Side Story" and "Porgy and Best" as the two greatest American theatre music accomplishments of the 20th century. Let it not be said that I'm waving away those works as slight - far from it. I'm simply suggesting that operatic singers don't often prove advantageous to musicals.

Film or stage, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote works which had their roots in Viennese operetta but in most cases (apart from those few mentioned) they were happy with Broadway (genre, not geography - it's metonymic) sopranos. Their Magna Theatre Corporation production of "South Pacific" on film saw them actively engaged in every stage of the process. Yet they were happy with a singer like Mitzi Gaynor and they didn't cast an opera singer to go up against Pinza's voice in "Some Enchanted Evening". And to my knowledge they didn't do that on the stage either.

So, here we are; back where we started. Actually the argument has gone back on itself because specific examples of the need for operatic singers has been identified but that wasn't what I was talking about!! A good discussion to have on any day from all of you!! :D

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Re: Carousel Bdway Renée Fleming-The Prom

Post by lennygoran » Fri Apr 21, 2017 5:14 am

lennygoran wrote:
Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:05 am
We've been talking about her recently and now it's off to Broadway!...“Carousel,” one of the greatest of American musicals
Not the same thing as the crossover topic but I felt close enough to add that I was reading this article about the upcoming Proms-this caught my eye. Regards, Len

"There may be no TV spinoffs this summer, but there’s no shortage of populism. The theatre and film musicals expert John Wilson waltzes onwards; this year he conducts three Proms, including two semi-staged performances of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! (August 11). “For me, Richard Rodgers was as great a composer, certainly as great a tunesmith, as Handel was,” Pickard enthuses, a touch contentiously. “And when Oklahoma! is played by the John Wilson Orchestra, that for me is of the same quality as the Vienna Philharmonic playing Beethoven.”

Here's the whole article. Regards, Len


Never mind the general election. What about the news that has rocked the music world? The BBC Proms are being transferred to Hull — the first time “that anyone can remember”, in the delightfully vague words of the Proms director David Pickard, that the 122-year-old institution will have ventured outside London.

Before diehard Prommers start frothing from all orifices, I had better be less economical with the actualité. The Proms are going to Hull for one programme only — on July 22. The other 74 concerts in this summer’s festival will be in London, as usual. “It is Hull’s year as UK City of Culture,” Pickard points out. “I wanted to experiment with a Prom outside the capital, and it made more sense to go to somewhere like Hull than, say, Manchester, which has two symphony orchestras playing throughout the year. And we’ve matched up the venue [an outdoor amphitheatre by an old dock] with a suitably watery-themed programme, including a 300th anniversary performance of Handel’s Water Music.”

Hull’s Prom won’t be the only one not in the Royal Albert Hall. Pickard is expanding the list of venues to include excursions to Tate Modern, Southwark Cathedral and the tiny but trendy Wilton’s Music Hall in east London (“we will cram people in upstairs and take the seats out downstairs”), as well as returning to the Bold Tendencies multi-storey car park in Peckham, a huge success last year.

Does this diversification imply any dissatisfaction with the Albert Hall? “The Albert Hall is a wonderful place, but not perfect for everything,” Pickard says. “Different venues bring a different feel to the music, and sometimes a different audience as well.”

Surely, though, he can’t be happy that, year after year, the Albert Hall’s debenture holders (the people who own seats in perpetuity) flog their tickets for the Last Night of the Proms on resale websites, often for thousands of pounds. Doesn’t that go against the Proms ethos? “It’s infuriating for us, and indeed for the colleagues we work with at the Albert Hall, and it creates a very unfortunate image,” Pickard admits. “Unfortunately, we are powerless to stop it. The Albert Hall and the Proms are synonymous, and the festival will be based there for the foreseeable future.”

After managing the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and then Glyndebourne, where he spent 14 years, Pickard, 57, was appointed to run the Proms nearly two years ago. It’s only with this season, however, that his impact will be properly felt. “I’d say last year was 50 per cent mine, and this year 90 per cent,” he says. “Some things get booked ages in advance. I remember Kathryn McDowell [the London Symphony Orchestra’s chief executive] coming up to me at Glyndebourne just after I was appointed to the Proms and saying, ‘I should let you know that Roger Wright [Pickard’s predecessor] agreed that Simon Rattle and the LSO should do Gurrelieder in the 2017 season.”

Schoenberg’s vast choral work, conducted by Rattle on August 19, won’t be the season’s only blockbuster. Pickard has also scheduled Beethoven’s Fidelio (July 21, with the feisty Australian tenor Stuart Skelton in the title role), Mussorgsky’s epic opera Khovanshchina, in Shostakovich’s orchestration (August 6), and Berlioz’s equally sprawling The Damnation of Faust, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner (August 8).

Those will be big events, but what’s even more striking when you thumb through the eight weeks of concerts is the extraordinary number of anniversaries and significant birthdays being marked — from the Russian Revolution (1917), the Reformation (1517), Finnish independence (1917) and even the partition of India (1947) to Ella Fitzgerald, Claudio Monteverdi, Dizzy Gillespie, John Adams, Philip Glass, John Williams and Malcolm Sargent, whose death 50 years ago is being commemorated by a recreation of his 500th Prom (July 24). Doesn’t Pickard feel he has overdone the historical allusions?

“You are probably right,” he concedes. “One of my notes to myself when I took the job was ‘beware of anniversary-itis’, yet despite being aware of the trap one still falls into it. On the other hand, if you have a composer such as John Adams turning 70, and he’s written so many extraordinary pieces that go well in the Albert Hall, it would be mad not to engage with that. I think his Harmonium, which we’ve put on the First Night [July 14] will be thrilling. And although I don’t expect everyone to latch on to our Reformation Day [August 20], I’m quite proud of us putting together five centuries of music telling the story of the Crucifixion, culminating in Bach’s St John Passion with chorales sung by the audience.”

If Pickard has been afflicted by anniversary-itis, however, he has deftly avoided something even more irritating: blatant BBC self-promotion. For the first time in recent years, incredibly, there will be no Prom linked to a BBC TV programme. Has he heeded the purists’ sour response to last year’s decidedly downmarket Strictly Come Dancing Prom, or are we spared the yeasty spectacle of a Great British Bake Off Prom only because the programme has defected to Channel 4?

“Put it this way, it’s not accidental,” he says. “The moment we start saying, ‘Well, it’s not absolutely top musical quality, but there might be an audience for it,’ warning lights start flashing for me. There are other ways of reaching new audiences, rather than allying yourself to another popular BBC brand. That’s not to say it will never happen again, but I was quite keen in my first year to try some different approaches, such as Tom Service deconstructing the Eroica Symphony before it’s played by memory by the Aurora Orchestra [July 22], or Gerard McBurney’s Beyond the Score presentation of Dvorák’s New World Symphony [August 23].”

There may be no TV spinoffs this summer, but there’s no shortage of populism. The theatre and film musicals expert John Wilson waltzes onwards; this year he conducts three Proms, including two semi-staged performances of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! (August 11). “For me, Richard Rodgers was as great a composer, certainly as great a tunesmith, as Handel was,” Pickard enthuses, a touch contentiously. “And when Oklahoma! is played by the John Wilson Orchestra, that for me is of the same quality as the Vienna Philharmonic playing Beethoven.”

Thankfully, for those music lovers who might need convincing about that, the season does also include the Vienna Philharmonic playing Beethoven, as well as Mahler, Mozart and Brahms (September 7 and 8).

Pickard admits that the Proms budget is under financial pressure, “but no more than the rest of the BBC — and of course we are one part of the corporation that does have an additional income stream, from the box office”. The trick with the latter, he says, is to “maintain accessibility while maximising income”. So, although promming tickets for arena and gallery remain fixed at £6 (“that’s a given”), prices for the plusher seats are likely to rise markedly over the coming seasons, with a good stalls seat for a top-flight orchestra already above £60.

Urbane in manner and steeped in the classical repertoire from boyhood (he went to a choir school, then did a music degree at Cambridge), Pickard seems unlikely to be a provocative or radical Proms director in the style of, say, William Glock in the 1960s. On the other hand, he is a shrewd and seasoned operator, alert to pitfalls as well as opportunities.

Under his watch, for instance, there won’t be a Proms season without a single woman composer or conductor — as another of his predecessorsonce disastrously contrived. And, like Clint Eastwood, Pickard accepts that a man’s gotta know his limitations. “There’s nothing like being Proms director,” he says, “to make you realise that what you thought was your comprehensive knowledge of western music is nothing of the sort.”

10 Proms to catch

Barenboim’s Elgar: Now as much of a Proms fixture as the bust of Henry Wood, Daniel Barenboim conducts his great Staatskapelle Berlin in Elgar’s two completed symphonies (July 15, 16).

Later in the season Elgar’s Third Symphony, controversially but imaginatively completed by Anthony Payne, is performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo (August 22).

The Immortal: A sensation in Manchester, Mark Simpson’s extraordinary oratorio, inspired by Victorian seances, receives its London premiere (July 27).

Relaxed Prom: Usual concert decorum is suspended for the first Prom specially designed for children and adults with autism, sensory and communication impairments and learning disabilities (July 29).

Ella and Dizzy: Fitzgerald and Gillespie, of course, both jazz legends born 100 years ago and celebrated in a Prom featuring the singer Dianne Reeves and the trumpeter James Morrison (August 4).

Passages: The classic album on which Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar collaborated is recreated for the first time in a concert, with Shankar’s daughter, Anoushka, pictured, playing a prominent role (August 15).

Chineke! Britain’s first orchestra of black and minority ethnic musicians makes its Proms debut, with the remarkable teenage cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason (August 30).

Royal Concertgebouw: Fascinating to see how Amsterdam’s illustrious orchestra is coping with its new chief conductor, Daniele Gatti. Two beefy programmes of Bruckner, Mahler, Haydn and Wolfgang Rihm will be a good test (September 1, 2).
General booking (bbc.co.uk/proms, 0845 4015040) opens on May 13



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