Posts

Review: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever at the Irish Repertory Theatre

Image
I was going to begin this blog post by complaining about the lyric "Up with which below can't compare with." It's a lyric that's bugged me since I first listened to On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, not least because it's such an easy fix. Just get rid of the first "with." Well, it turns out that in the stage show, Mark Bruckner actually calls Daisy Gamble out on this line right after she sings it. I've checked this with the vocal score, and this is indeed what Alan Jay Lerner wrote. I'm not wholly convinced that Lerner didn't just like the rhythm of the line and added in the dialogue to justify, but justify it he has, so I can't reasonably complain.

can however, complain about how he rhymes "azalea" with "failure" in the very same song. (Pronouncing the latter "failya.") As far as I could tell, this lyric was rewritten for the movie to rhyme "least a" with "Easter," which has the…

Program Notes: Eyes And No Eyes

Image
Between 1869 and 1875, W.S. Gilbert wrote a the libretti for a series of six "musical entertainments" produced by Thomas German Reed. Four of them had music by Reed, and the other two had music by Frederic Clay. These entertainments were exactly that -- light, family-friendly theatrical productions, in which Reed and his wife Priscilla often performed. These entertainments are of historical interest if you're interested in the history of that sort of thing, but they are not frequently produced nowadays. This is partly out of obscurity, partly out of them not tending to be interesting or robust enough to hold an evening on their own (dinner theater might suit them), and the fact that the original scores of most of them are lost to history might have something to do with it as well. I'm not going to stand here and argue that the German Reed entertainments are hidden masterpieces, because they're not. They are frequently funny, and where music exists it is often ple…

Darling Of The Day

I listened to a new musical the other day. Or rather, a half-century old musical, but new to me. Darling Of The Day, by the somewhat unexpected team of E.Y. Harburg and Jule Styne, ran for a month on Broadway in 1968, and since then has more or less faded into obscurity with the occasional attempts to revive it  generally being met with indifference. And after listening to it and studying a bit, I can see why. It's not that great. It's not bad. It's just sort of fine.

But I still want to talk about it. I was trying to think of a good reason to talk about it. Then I remembered that this is my blog, and I can just talk about things if I want. So here's a write-up of Darling Of The Day. (Cast album available on Spotify and Youtube and probably other places too.)



The story, in a nutshell, is about Priam Farrl, a famous painter played by Vincent Price. He is tired of being a famous painter. One day his butler dies. Vincent Price decides to fake his death with the butler'…

A Historically Informed "Echad Mi Yodea"

Image
Every year at Passover, my family, at the end of the seder, sings the three traditional songs that accompany it. Or we attempt to at any rate. We do a decent job with "Chad Gadya," for which we all basically agree on the tune. And we manage to stumble through "Adir Hu" alright too, as we generally agree on the lack of tune. But "Echad Mi Yodea" gives us particular trouble, and we end up going back and forth between a couple of "tunes" and eventually force our way through the thirteen ever-lengthening verses. It's a sort of Jewish "The Twelve Days Of Christmas," but worse because it goes to thirteen.
This year I decided to do some research and settle this matter once and for all. I found some work done by acclaimed Jewish musicologist Cantor Yokannan Ze'ev in the eighties in conjunction with Marshall College. The study, directed by Rabbi Sholom ben Arnold, and conducted in Egypt by Doctor Henry Jones Jr. was focused on archeolo…

An Open Letter to Charlotte Jones, David Zippel, and Andrew Lloyd Webber

A revival of the 2004 musical The Woman In White (based on the novel by Wilkie Collins) concluded its revival run in London to generally lukewarm reviews. Better than the original production, but still not great. One of the reviews pointed out that by shortening the already-condensed show into two hours, it leaves little room for character development while also trying to cram in all that plot. Other common complaints were that Andrew Lloyd Webber's score does not coalesce, and that the drama is muddled. This makes sense. The Woman In White is a gothic thriller that takes at least a half-hour to give a sensible synopsis of. This is not going to be one of your pleasant small-theater murder mystery musicals that can be done by ten in the evening. At the same time, many of the revisions made (at least, according to reviews -- I'm not in London) seem to be in the right direction. But much more can be done.

So here's an open letter to Charlotte Jones, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and D…

Babylonian Captivity

I don't understand why the character of Idreno in Semiramide exists.

I mean, I get why he exists. Rossini needed to write a starring role for whatever tenor. Probably that's the reason, or something like that. But surely he could have been given some bearing on the actual plot?

Idreno's role is essentially that of one of the extra suitors in any fairy tale about a princess who has to marry one of three people, and they go in order to face some sort of riddle or challenge, and only the hero of the story will succeed and win the princess' hand. Arsace is the hero. Idreno is one of the other guys. Is it a problem that he exists? Not especially. Rule of three more or less dictates that someone has to be there, and it may as well be a tenor. What bothers me more is that the opera spends half an hour and two major arias on him. Semiramide herself only has one solo aria. If you cut Idreno's arias, and reduce him to an extra body on stage with a few lines, nothing fundament…

Mayer, Muhly, and Mefistofele: The Met's 2018-19 Season

The Met announced their 2018-19 season yesterday. I did plug it into the spreadsheet, and it popped out a score of 0.2481. Which is not only more daring than any of the remarkably close past four seasons, but also the most daring of any season in the past seven years, with the 2013-14 season being next at 0.2489. So it looks like what I found in my last post was just a neat coincidence.

There are two major things bringing this number down. The first is the Ring Cycle. The Ring Cycle is always a special event, and draws in a crowd. The reason it scores so low is because it's difficult to pull off, and so companies don't attempt it that often. But when you do pull it of, it's not exactly an obscure thing that no one's going to see. This is a marked flaw that my algorithm doesn't account for. I expect that's also why Aida scores surprisingly low. It's just a technically difficult show, so it's done less often, but that doesn't mean it's any less po…