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re: I'm confused. Does anyone actually WANT to see opera stars perform musicals?
Last Edit: PlayWiz 06:19 pm EDT 07/31/20
Posted by: PlayWiz 06:03 pm EDT 07/31/20
In reply to: re: I'm confused. Does anyone actually WANT to see opera stars perform musicals? - singleticket 03:35 pm EDT 07/31/20

I was actually more impressed by Paulo Szot's acting than his singing in "South Pacific", as he held back (maybe at director's request) from really singing out "Never let her go" at the end of the first act and several other instances. Maybe they were afraid that the Ezio Pinza full-throated approach might scare people nowadays who aren't used to hearing a big operatic sound outside of an opera house. On, tv they transposed down Kristin Chenoweth's songs as Marian in "The Music Man" because, who knows-- maybe they thought people didn't know what to make of a high note by a soprano on broadcast tv? Like a soprano's high notes were as foreign as a visitor from Mars and heaven protect today's viewers? Very silly as she could have easily sung it as written and have been more effective.

Bryn Terfel's acting as Figaro in "The Marriage of Figaro" at the Met when he first started there was very good, though as he took on more Wagnerian stand and sing roles, his acting got less impressive and his voice started to get more of a wobble with the heavier roles. The combination of his rather lackluster Sweeney against the very frenetic and over-acted (and we're talking over-acted against folks like Dorothy Loudon!) Emma Thompson's Mrs. Lovett, made for a less than really effective duo in "Sweeney Todd".

Many times it's folks who are wonderful opera singers but less than stars who are really good in musicals. I saw Joyce Castle do a terrific Mrs. Lovett at City Opera years ago, as well as terrific work in opera. Regina Resnik, a name but not as big a star in opera (say, on the level as Carmen that Rise Stevens was a huge star), was effective in musicals, as those who saw her in "A Little Night Music" and "Cabaret" might attest.

Robert Weede is fabulous on the OCR of "Most Happy Fella" and there are extended videos from "The Ed Sullivan Show" which show his acting was quite fine (the director must have approved the way he handled the Italian accent and lyrics that Frank Loesser supplied). His voice was gorgeous.

It's a matter of making the voice adjust to the style. Maria Callas, who pretty much sang exclusively opera, cared about the acting so much that sometimes she would sacrifice the quality of her voice (and she was many times criticized for this by her detractors). Teresa Stratas would sometimes do this, and she was quite wonderful in her short-lived run in "Rags" and equally great and compelling vocally and acting-wise doing all three roles in Puccini's "Il Trittico" and her other roles in opera. Julia Migenes started as Hodel in the original "Fiddler on the Roof" before turning to opera and mostly having her career in Europe.

Opera folks like the late Tatiana Troyanos, Morley Meredith and James MacCracken started on Broadway as well. Besides changing one's vocal technique for musicals by not using as much vibrato, employing more of a straighter tone, more of an emphasis on diction, and sometimes having to sound charactery rather than full-out legit, they have to be able to deal with dialogue proficiently and as well as someone who's doing a non-musical for the most part. Patricia Routledge could sing operetta incredibly well with a wonderful technique, but if you ever hear her doing the famous showstopper "Duet for One" from "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue", she makes herself sound downright ugly in tone at times on purpose, and stops the show cold. The audio is on YouTube.

Had she wanted to, Barbara Cook would have been smashing in opera in soubrette and light lyric-coloratura roles. She even auditioned for "Candide" Leonard Bernstein by doing the full lyric-spinto Madama Butterfly's entrance, and she impressed Bernstein into giving her Cunegonde. I once asked Cook about whether she wanted to do opera. She told me that she was really interested in musical comedy and back then, there was enough work in it to make a career. But she'd have been wonderful as all the -inas, Rosina, Adina, Nanetta, plus Adele in "Die Fledermaus", Musetta, etc. if she wanted to pursue them. But she's probably a lot more famous than many who did those roles because she originated Cunegonde and Amalia and Marian the Librarian, when folks were writing musicals that are still being done 60 years later.
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