With Sondheim's INTO THE WOODS currently running in Central Park, I can't help but wonder what the witch would sound like if sung by the greatest Mezzo-Soprano in the world.
By David Davila (playwright/song-writer)
Why Denyce Graves has never recorded an album of Broadway tunes beats the heck out of me. Who else could capture the haunting feeling of Bali Hai like that rich, velvety, mezzo, artiste?
(If you've never heard of Denyce Graves, you MUST listen to this immediately!)
Yes, I’m aware she did a Jazz album (Kaleidoscope) with bass and keys that included a few Broadway standards, and even a Sondheim gem, (I Remember, from EVENING PRIMROSE, which I listen to regularly) but that’s just not enough trackage on my playlist.
I think I totally just made up the word trackage…
That one Sondheim song, is nothing more than a cock tease, giving us a glimpse of the magic that might be had if Denyce took the Sondheim songbook, and clasping it tightly to her breast, showed us just how these songs might be heard if the angel of death could sing them.
Okay, maybe that's taking it too far, but her voice really is dark and stormy! Back in another life, when I was a sophomore opera major at North Texas, Ms. Graves did a recital at the Murchison Performing Arts Center. My friends and I got our tickets the day they went on sale, third row, and the night of the concert she sang an entire verse of Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix directly to me. NO JOKE! I melted in my seat... needless to say I'm a pretty loyal fan.
Oh Denyce, please consider recording the Sondheim Songbook. I promise you, you’ll have a great time, and all of us Sondheim nerds could bathe in the sounds of a real melody singer milking each song for every note.
I have full confidence that you have already said yes to the above suggestion, and so I’ve decided to make a list of repertoire for you to include on the album. You're welcome!
Here goes nothing...
THE MILLER’S SON from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC: I think I would nut if I heard Denyce wallow in the depths of this song about playing the field before you settle down…
BY THE SEA from SWEENEY TODD: One word – marimbas.
NOT A DAY GOES BY from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG: Okay, so no one sings this song better than Bernadette Peters, but with Denyce’s unequivocal musicality and her ability to get to the heartache of any song, I think she would kill it.
THE GUN SONG from ASSASSINS: Why not? That song is freaking awesome and no one ever sings it.
EVERYBODY LOVES LOUIS from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE: What a great aria. That’s right I called it an aria; the emotional range in that song is cray. Why don’t more women use it as an audition piece? Especially when Dot sings:
We lose things, and then we choose things
and there are Louis' and there are Georges
... well, Louis' and George
But George has George
and I need someone, Louis
For that matter, Ms. Graves should re-team with Placido Domingo and record WE DO NOT BELONG TOGETHER. When the dialogue in that duet slowly moves through sprechstimme to full singing I hold my breath every time.
PS I hope this didn’t turn into a “Denyce vs. Bernadette” thing, Lord knows I love both ladies.
I READ / LOVING YOU / I WISH I COULD FORGET YOU from PASSION: The Passion aria trifecta would be poifect for Denyce to tackle. True, Renee already recorded them on her Broadway album, and Patricia Racette (the world’s greatest and mostly unrecorded soprano) sang the role at Chicago Lyric… but how about we let a real mezzo have a try?
COMEDY TONIGHT from A FUNNY THING…: It can’t be all downer songs, we gotta have a few uptempo… for that matter she could record ANOTHER HUNDRED PEOPLE, YOU COULD DRIVE A PERSON CRAZY, GLAMOROUS LIFE, REMEMBER, BARCELONA, AH PARIS!…
...and why stop there?
Denyce, Denyce, Denyce, get your little butt to a recording studio and give us some songs… or book Carnegie Hall and I’ll be there front and center… with all the other Sondheim nerds, waiting anxiously till the moment I can close my eyes and hear you sing those lyrics...
Isn't it rich?
Denyce's voice? Oh yeah...
... and now for the 90's jam of the week:
DAVID DAVILA is half of the song-writing duo Havrilla & Davila, author of the Tex-Mex plays ADAN Y JULIO, MEN OF GOD, CREDO, REQUERDOS OF MY LIFE, and AZTEC PIRATES AND THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE ON MARS. He is a self proclaimed Voxist, a Diva enthusiast, and founder of Lone Star Theatre Co. Wanna talk about it? www.daviddavila.net
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