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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Bridge over (very) troubled waters


Crossover is music from an unexpected source. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (a clumsy title) doing Blue Suede Shoes would be one example. I’m not sure if the Queen, overheard singing Magic Roundabout, would qualify. But you get the idea.

Crossover at its most notorious occurred when Leonard Bernstein forced José Carreras and Kiri te Kanawa to do the vocals in West Side Story, presumably to make money. The disc was a best-seller but who bought it I can’t guess. José especially was an unlikely New York boy gangster. There’s also a telly programme of the rehearsals with Bernstein bollocking José, perhaps for being too old.

I normally avoid crossover. But comparing performances of Mozart’s aria Voi che sapete I was offered Nana Maskourian and Charlotte Church. Since I’m repeatedly accused of being a snob – not least by myself – I played them. Both failed. Naturally I’m used to hearing the aria sung by trained voices and they don’t just hit the right notes they dig out the emotions. Because:

You who know what love is,
Ladies, see if I have it in my heart
… a feeling full of desire
… by turns delightful and miserable.
I freeze and then feel my soul go up in flames,
Then in a moment I turn to ice
… I find peace neither night nor day,
But still I rather enjoy languishing this way.


which sounds rather better in Italian, has emotion built into it by Mozart as well as, erm, myself. Which Church and Maskourian skated over. Contrarily, when the trained voices of Kiri and José sang Tonight, Tonight, the World is Wild and Bright a formal stiffness tethered the music to the ground. Let’s not cross over.

4 comments:

earlybird said...

I know just what you mean. I have a cd 'Pavarotti & friends' and the first track is Panis (Franck) sung by Pavarotti & Sting...

It simply doesn't work (which doesn't mean I don't like it, I do) (although, perhaps, if I'm honest, it's more about associations rather than the music) but poor Sting's voice just isn't up to it. No depth. What I would call one-dimensional. Still, it was a brave effort. Or maybe simply foolhardy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jFHWIsOKbE

What do you think?

earlybird said...

Panis Angelicus (obviously)

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

EB: I've never seen anyone (A world star, yet!) look so apprehensive. Then as Pav let's fly, you realise why. Fact is I know nothing of Sting as a singer but I can't help think he's trying to ape Pav, certainly in the first few bars. Then he slips into a buzzing mumble and the comparison is complete. It isn't that there's no symbiosis, but that the whole exercise is pointless. To set a trained voice alongside an untrained voice strips Sting of his legitimate existence in the pop world, suggesting that someone set out to humiliate him. And the fact is that if the goal-posts were re-positioned and they were required to sing Heartbreak Hotel together, Pav would win yet again on the grounds of sheer volume. Perhaps it was the Pope who masterminded this project.

Glad you mentioned the way you can like a thing through association than through musical merit. I've previously confessed to Elton John and Kiki Dee doing Don't Go Breaking My Heart, heard first in Santa Caterina, location of my first ski-ing holiday.

earlybird said...

I like the idea of the Pope masterminding the project.