Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers

Posted by: Andrew

Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 04/22/12 04:02 PM

Opera North is warming up for their Carousel tour, and yesterday evening I went to see Dame Felicity singing Richard Rodgers songs in Leeds Grand Theatre's intimate Howard Assembly Room. I've seen her in lots of operas, but none very recently.

She was accompanied by Jason Carr, an accompanist who also has impressive composing credits and can also sing (well, more or less). Here's the programme, sung by Lott unless otherwise noted. Hart lyrics marked *, Hammerstein lyrics marked **,
Rodgers lyrics marked ***

The Carousel Waltz (Carousel) (Carr only)
It Might as Well be Spring (State Fair**) with FL arriving during the intro
Mr Snow (Carousel**)
Never Say No (State Fair***)
Come Home (Allegro**)
part of Victory at Sea (Carr only), including No Other Love and a bit of Finlandia
Money isn't Everything (Allegro**) (Lott arriving during intro, duet with Carr)
My Funny Valentine (Babes in Arms*)
A Wonderful Guy (South Pacific**)

Interval

Slaughter on 10th Avenue (Carr only)
To keep My Love Alive (A Connecticut Yankee*), Lott arriving during intro
What's the Use of Wond'rin' (Carousel**)
Dites-Moi (South Pacific**) - not sung as a duet
Ten Cents a Dance (Simple Simon*) - reminiscent of something by Jeremy Nicholas
Den of Iniquity (Pal Joey*) (duet with Carr)
Bewitched (Pal Joey*)
Hello Young Lovers (The King and I**)

Encores:

The Lonely Goatherd (The Sound of Music**)
Edelweiss (The Sound of Music**)

Well, it was very well-judged and enjoyable (except for My Funny Valentine, which I loathe, and the encores...). I'd never heard of some of the shows or some of the numbers. There were three items listed in the programme which Lott didn't sing: Lover (Love Me Tonight*), Something Wonderful (The King and I**) and La-La-La (No Strings***). She seems to have forsaken the opera stage - see her website

http://www.felicitylott.de/

- but then she's about my age. The full house was very appreciative.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/09/12 01:02 PM

And yesterday was her 65th birthday! We talked about her in the French Art Song class that I teach (we have reached Poulenc, of whom she is of course a supreme interpreter). I've seen her in recital in the US 4 times, and even enjoyed a post-recital supper at neighboring little tables (me with Graham Johnson, she with Ann Murray).

The recital program looks slightly oddly chosen to me, with so many full-length orchestral pieces rendered pianistically -- did he really play 10-minute solos? I've encountered Carr's name as a theater orchestrator, and seen comments from him on Facebook -- he is a friend of several friends, if you follow me.

As to the sung portion of the program, I know all the songs except "Never Say No," which was created by Rodgers solo for the 1962 remake of State Fair. I used to loathe "My Funny Valentine" too, and still do when it's given the usual last-call-in-the-boozy-nightclub rendition. But when it's done with the orchestration for the original show (lots of English horn and celesta), in straight tempo and rhythm and not messed around with, it's beautiful. Frederica von Stade does a lovely rendition on her Rodgers & Hart CD of the same name. Unfortunately nobody seems to have made a video of it to post online, so I can't point you in that direction.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/09/12 09:22 PM

I know all the shows except "Simple Simon" - although Iam familiar with Ten Cents a Dance from some pseudo bio flick I saw years ago.

And I am pretty sure I've seen EVERY movie version of State Fair, going back to the (unmusical) version with Will Rogers...some time in my early childhood.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/09/12 09:42 PM

I have a family connection with the Will Rogers version! I was told about it by my mother only a few years ago.

That relatively early talkie was partly filmed on location in Iowa. And the prize hog in it... belonged to my great-uncle. (My mother's side of the family is Iowan.)

And Kay, Simple Simon was one of those fairy-tale farce-extravaganzas that used to be so popular. This one wasn't as big a hit as some; it starred Ed Wynn.

Also, I'm really surprised if you know Allegro and A Connecticut Yankee. They're never done.
Posted by: Andrew

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/10/12 05:30 AM

Well, I see that both of those were done by New York City Center - I bet you were there, Jon!

As for A Connecticut Yankee, I didn't know that To Keep My Love Alive came from it or indeed that the show was by Rodgers and Hart. (Actually, I tend to think of Busy Doing Nothing, which I know neither of them had a hand in!)

Anyway, I went to see Opera North's Carousel at Leeds Grand Theatre on Tuesday. The cast are mostly opera singers and I'm pretty certain that there wasn't any amplification (the sets were mostly enclosed). There are 17 performances in Leeds, then six in Manchester, then a gap until August 15 when there will be thirty-five at the Barbican in London (until 15 September). There was a full house and a lot of enthusiasm. The conductor was James Holmes who's conducted various lightish works by Weill, Sondheim (and Shostakovich), as well as quite a few operas, for the company - I think you had some correspondence with him, Jon?

Anyway, I generally enjoyed it, especially the well-known songs, though neither the Soliloqy nor the lengthy ballet are my cup of tea, and I really dislike works where people come down from heaven - though John Woodvine was an excellent choice as the Starkeeper. If I was programming a R&H musical, I'd go for South Pacific or Oklahoma!.

George Hall in The Guardian gave it a rave review: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/may/07/carousel-opera-north-review

Geoff Brown in The Times gave it the thumbs down; I hardly agreed with anything he wrote (maybe he got out of the wrong side of the bed), but here it all is:

"Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1945 hit Carousel must have appeared a tempting prospect for Opera North, a company with a strong record of mounting musicals. Those memorable songs! The tragedy, the comedy, the emotional uplift! Rodgers himself thought the score brought him the closest to a "proper" opera. No wonder Opera North with Jo Davies, director of their Ruddigore revival, went ahead with panache. Good intentions; but not an unqualified success.

Eric Greene is a rising American with a warm baritone and a pleasant presence, but he had scarcely more than two weeks to master the lead role after Keith Phares withdrew through illness. Sonorous but dramatically fuzzy, Greene's performance on opening night suggested that Billy Bigelow, the quick-tempered carnival barker with a habit of giving his women the slap, wasn't yet under his thumb.

Before that fuzziness became apparent, there were Anthony Ward's skeletal settings to worry about. Eventually a carousel's outline appeared; Davies's directing skills kicked in; Billy and nice girl Julie got hitched; and the plot of Molnár's Hungarian play Liliom rolled out like a familiar, stained carpet. Yet Ward's boxy wooden walls and reduced-price Americana remained a bother, especially once we reached Heaven's antechamber, shimmering with the joy of a doctor's waiting room.

Greene's Bigelow didn't get easier, either; though that's partly the fault of Molnár and Hammerstein's libretto. Play the character pugnaciously, as Gordon MacRae did in the Hollywood musical, then audience sympathy may drain away. But if Bigelow's pugnacious streak is soft-pedalled, the plot doesn't make sense. Greene spent so much of Act I being melodious and agreeable that when surliness eventually entered, I didn't believe him.

Still, the lovely music, robed in Don Walker's brilliant orchestrations, is dashingly delivered by the Opera North Orchestra and their conductor, James Holmes. None of the players, thank goodness, pays close attention to Hammerstein's fake New England dialect, so Gillene Herbert's Julie and Claire Boulter's Carrie sing out in the reliable English way, sweet and strong.

Boulter's Carrie is full of character, while Joseph Shovelton is ingratiating as her hubbie, Mr Snow. Julie's radiant loyalty and inner strength prove more elusive, but for the play's sake we take it on trust.

Elsewhere, Elena Ferrari blazes through June is Bustin' out all Over, Michael Rouse is properly sleazy as Jigger, the show's bad penny; and, if the ballet remains a drag, Kim Brandstrup's choreography makes the drag bearable. You'll Never Walk Alone left me cold as a fish; but that's my problem."
Posted by: Kay

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/10/12 09:47 AM

Originally Posted By: Jon


Also, I'm really surprised if you know Allegro and A Connecticut Yankee. They're never done.


You forget how old I am....Allegro came out when I was a teenager and I seem to recall there was something from it that was popular...and I think I've always known ACY...

And I do remember your aunt's pig. His name was Blue Boy and they couldn't get him to stand up...
Posted by: Jon

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/11/12 09:51 AM

OK, I'll believe you on Allegro. But ACY? Really? That IS impressive. (Bing Crosby made a movie musical with that title, but it's not the Rodgers & Hart version at all.)
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/11/12 03:20 PM

I saw the televised version of ACY back in the 50s, with the remarkable casting of Boris Karloff as King Arthur. I think he sang his songs instead of talking them, but my memory is a little fuzzy. The show does have two songs that have stuck in my mind, "Thou Swell" and "My Heart Stood Still".
Posted by: Jon

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/11/12 08:28 PM

Well, those are the right two songs, so I bow in admiration.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 05/18/12 09:36 PM

I am pretty sure I saw the Crosby ACYINKAC. IMDB says it was filmed in 1949...but I was familiar with Thou Swell long before that movie version was made. I don't remember the earlier one.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Felicity Lott sings Richard Rodgers - 01/17/13 07:00 AM

The label VAI has been acquiring and issuing many of those live broadcasts of musicals from the 1950s -- including that Connecticut Yankee! Which did indeed have Boris Karloff, along with Eddie Albert and Janet Blair. Others on their list that I've acquired include

Bloomer Girl with Barbara Cook
Kiss Me Kate with the two original stars
The Mikado with Groucho Marx
The Yeomen of the Guard with Barbara Cook, Celeste Holm, and Alfred Drake

and they keep bring out more every month. Good to know about.