Saturday, September 21, 2013

Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera: Musicals....with opera singers?

Ok, let me start out by saying that it is really hard for me to write something like this because I just have a hard time in general making up my mind. However, I've thought about this for a long time, basically since I've started listening to opera. It doesn't take an opera singer to come to the conclusion that both Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera are very operatically driven musicals. Surely when you are writing a musical on the subject of a 19th century French novel (two of the greatest, by the way) and you are trying to decide which style of music you are going to choose to underscore the drama, romantic era opera music is probably going to be your first source for inspiration. We'll not talk about some of the stranger exceptions to this rule....ahem Notre-Dame de Paris. Anyway, reports of Lloyd Webber's desire to portray late romantic opera in his blockbuster musical range from parody to imitation to downright plagiary (I'll let you decide for yourself on this last one but it is certain that he was masterful at creating an entire generation of people who wholeheartedly believe that Phantom is an opera. Many have also realized that Les Miserables is also "through-composed", more so even than Phantom. This leads to the notion that maybe Les Mis is in fact an opera. It's not, but that's a reasonable conclusion to draw. Like I said, since I've been singing opera I have asked myself, "How would I cast a production of Les Mis/Phantom with only opera singers?" Now I know what you're thinking, "That would sound awful because opera singers don't know how to switch into musical theater voices." I've thought about that, and I think you'll just have to bear with me on this one because that's just something I can't compensate for. Surely music is allowed to be sung in multiple styles. Just look at what the crooners did to all those songs written for musical theater. Mack the Knife: written in German to be sung in a classical-jazz mix, ends up being a big-band crooner song. Anyway, I digress. Now to the real reason why I brought you here: my cast lists. We'll start with the more difficult one.

Coming to an opera house near you: Phantom of the Opera!
Phantom- Thomas Hampson
Christine Daae- this is a hard one because of her range, but maybe Joyce DiDonato
Raoul de Chagny- Roberto Alagna or maybe Rolando Villazon
Carlotta- Diana Damrau

I won't try to cast every role, but those who are the most important make it to the list. The next list will be a little more extensive, but there are more roles in Les Mis.

Les Miserables
Jean Valjean- Placido Domingo
Javert- Eric Owens or Erwin Schrott
Fantine- Renee Fleming (because I figured she should be in there somewhere)
Thenardier- Bryn Terfel
Madame Thenardier- I had trouble on this one, so if anyone can think of someone, I'm open.
Eponine- Elina Garanca
Cosette- Olga Peretyatko (I just wanted someone relatively young)
Marius- Nathan Gunn (because I like him and he has actually done musical theater)
Enjolras- Jonas Kaufmann

Now of course these casts may not work all that well together, but they're mostly people that I think would be interesting to see in each of the roles. Thanks for going down this path of opera fandom with me. Since this is a baritone blog above all things, I leave you with some wonderful clips of baritones singing musical theater. I told you he was good. Just Bryn being Bryn. But really, can we get this man in a mask?!?!

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