Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ghost of Sunday Classics: Why the heck are Mary Martin and John Raitt singing "There's No Business Like Show Business"?

A cheery thought from Roz Chast in the May 12 New Yorker

IRVING BERLIN: Annie, Get Your Gun: Overture and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (plus "They Say It's Wonderful")

Mary Martin (Annie Oakley), John Raitt (Frank Butler), 1957 NBC TV Cast ensemble. Capitol-EMI

There lived a king, as I've been told,
In the wonder-working days of old,
When hearts were twice as good as gold,
And twenty times as mellow.
Good temper triumphed in his face,
And in his heart he found a place
For all the erring human race
And every wretched fellow.
-- the Grand Inquisitor, in Act II of The Gondoliers

by Ken

In the end it was all the Gilmore Girls' fault. Maybe not "all," but for sure some, especially in that "end." Yesterday I had this idea for a Sunday Classics post. On the bus heading upstate when there wasn't going to be any time to write. I was already on the bus for my daylong Wolfe Walkers trip up the Hudson with Justin Ferate, to several fascinating Hudson River destinations he'd cunningly stitched together, I found myself hearing Leporell's great catalogue aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni, which we'd listened to just last Novermber.

You recall:

MOZART: Don Giovanni, K. 527: Act I, Recitative, "Se non credete al labbro mio" ("If you don't believe my lips") . . . Aria, Leporello, "Madamina, il catalogo è questo" ["My dear lady, this is a catalog"]
DON GIOVANNI [to ELVIRA]: If you don't believe my lips, then believe this gentleman here.
LEPORELLO [aside]: Anything but the truth.
DON GIOVANNI [to LEPORELLO]: Go on, tell her.
LEPORELLO [aside to DON GIOVANNI]: And what shall I tell her?
DON GIOVANNI: Yes, yes, tell her anything.
DONNA ELVIRA [to LEPORELLO, while DON GIOVANNI slips away unnoticed by her]: All right, but hurry up.
LEPORELLO: Madam . . . really . . . in this world, when it happens that a square is not a circle . . .
DONNA ELVIRA: Wretch! Thus you mock my grief? Ah, you . . .
[Turning to address DON GIOVANNI]
Good heavens! The villain has fled! Alas, where could he be? Where?
LEPORELLO: Oh, let him go. He doesn't deserve to be worried over.
DONNA ELVIRA: The wretch tricked me, betrayed me . . .
LEPORELLO: Calm yourself! You are not, were not and will not be either the first or the last. Look: this fat little book is entirely full of the names of his sweethearts. Each town, each district, each countryside testifies to his affairs with women.

Aria, Leporello
My dear lady, this is a catalog
of the beauties my master has loved,
a list which I have compiled.
Observe, read along with me.
In Italy, 640;
in Germany, 231;
a hundred in France; in Turkey 91.
In Spain already 1003.
Among these are peasant girls,
maidservants, city girls,
countesses, baronesses,
marchionesses, princesses,
women of every rank,
every shape, every age.
In Italy six hundred and forty, etc.

With blondes it is his habit
to praise their kindness;
in brunettes, their faithfulness;
in the very blonde, their sweetness.
In winter he likes fat ones,
in summer he likes thin ones.
He calls the tall ones majestic.
The little ones are always charming.
He seduces the old ones
for the pleasure of adding to the list.
His greatest favorite
is the young beginner.
It doesn't matter if she's rich,
ugly or beautiful;
if she is rich, ugly or beautiful.
If she wears a petticoat,
you know what he does.
If she wears a petticoat, etc.
[He leaves.]
We start with an extract from the famous 1942 Bruno Walter-conducted Met broadcast Don Giovanni with the formidable bass tandem of Ezio Pinza as the Don and Alexander Kipnis as Leporello. Then we hear a live performance featuring the ranking Leporello of the '50s and '60s, Fernando Corena. Finally we hear a really wonderful performance by bass-baritone José van Dam, wonderfully partnered by Kiri Te Kanawa as Elvira, from my second-favorite Don Giovanni recording (behind the 1055 Krips-Decca).

Ezio Pinza (bs), Don Giovanni; Alexander Kipnis (bs), Leporello; Jarmila Novotna (s), Donna Elvira; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Bruno Walter, cond. Live performance, Mar. 7, 1942

George London (b), Don Giovanni; Fernando Corena (bs), Leporello; Eleanor Steber (s), Donna Elvira; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Max Rudolf, cond. Live perfomance, Mar. 13, 1954

Eberhard Wächter (b), Don Giovanni; Giuseppe Taddei (b), Leporello; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (s), Donna Elvira; Philharmonia Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini, cond. EMI, recorded Oct.-Nov. 1959

Ruggero Raimondi (bs), Don Giovanni; José van Dam (bs-b), Leporello; Kiri Te Kanawa (s), Donna Elvira; Orchestra of the Théâtre National de l'Opéra, Lorin Maazel, cond. CBS-Sony, recorded June 22-July 26, 1978


. . . at the way the "now for something completely different" B section ("Nella bionda"), beyond providing an opportunity for the bass or baritone (a distinction that would soon become extremely important but didn't really exist in Mozart's time, when there were just different sorts of basses ) to show off a very different sort of vocal prowess, also gave us a glimpse of a very different aspect of his character.

Leporello, "Nella bionda egli ha l'usanza"
("With blondes it is his habit")

With blondes it is his habit
to praise their kindness;
in brunettes, their faithfulness;
in the very blonde, their sweetness.
In winter he likes fat ones,
in summer he likes thin ones.
He calls the tall ones majestic.

(1) Gabriel Bacquier (b), Leporello; London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, cond. Decca, recorded Oct.-Nov. 1978
(2) Ferruccio Furlanetto (bs), Leporello; Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. DG, recorded Jan. 1985


. . . into the musical number that precedes and sets the stage for "Madamina," the quartet "Non ti fidar," which we first heard in the May 2010 post "Mozart understood that empathy was as useful a quality for a composer as for a Supreme Court justice."

MOZART: Don Giovanni: Act I, Quartet, "Non ti fidar, o misera"
We're going to listen now to Elvira's "refinding" of the Don (the line that precedes the quartet is "Ah, ti ritrovo ancor, perfido mostro" -- "Ah, I find you yet again perfidious monster"), in the company of Donna Anna and Don Ottavio, who have come to enlist his help, ironically, in tracking down the intruder responsible for the death of Anna's father. And Mozart takes full advantage of the witnesses da Ponte has furnished him; we learn as much about Elvira from their response to her anguish, "Cieli, che aspetto nobile! che dolce maestà" ("Heavens, what noble bearing! what gentle majesty!"), as we do from anything she herself says or sings. Against Elivra's grace, even under the crushing circumstances ordained for her by fate, or her own romantic foolishness (something the rest of us are way too smart to succumb to), even the Don's legendary charm, working at full capacity (especially from the throat of Ezio Pinza), is powerless.

Elvira is a role you try to cast with a singer who doesn't just sing beautifully but has that special magnetism and innocence to have an audience instantly on her side, and we're going to hear four rightly famous Elviras: Jarmila Novotna, Lisa della Casa, Sena Jurinac, and Kiri Te Kanawa.

Jarmila Novotna (s), Donna Elvira; Rose Bampton (s), Donna Anna; Charles Kullman (t), Don Ottavio; Ezio Pinza (bs), Don Giovanni; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Bruno Walter, cond. Live performance, March 7, 1942

Lisa della Casa (s), Donna Elvira; Suzanne Danco (s), Donna Anna; Anton Dermota (t), Don Ottavio; Cesare Siepi (bs), Don Giovanni; Vienna Philharmonic, Josef Krips, cond. Decca, recorded June 1955

Sena Jurinac (s), Donna Elvira; Gundula Janowitz (s), Donna Anna; Alfredo Kraus (t), Don Ottavio; Nicolai Ghiaurov (bs), Don Giovanni; Orchestra of RAI Rome, Carlo Maria Giulini, cond. Recorded live, May 12, 1970

Kiri Te Kanawa (s), Donna Elvira; Edda Moser (s), Donna Anna; Kenneth Riegel (t), Don Ottavio; Ruggero Raimondi (bs), Don Giovanni; Paris Opera Orchestra, Lorin Maazel, cond. CBS/Sony, recorded June 22-July 6, 1978

This exposure to both Leporello and Elvira Don Giovanni's servant and the woman the Don is accused of having married and abandoned, for me the backbone of Don Giovanni, its direct link to the audience, would have provided an opportunity to underline the importance of empathy to Mozart, his ability to inhabit all his characters from the inside, might have led naturally to the king recalled for instructional purposes to two potential kings by the Grand Inquisitor in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers, which we first heard in a May 2010 post, followed by August 2013's "Gilbert and Sullivan's gondoliers try to temper monarch with republican equality," preview and main post).
At this point in Act II we're in the island kingdom of Barataria, where the Grand Inquisitor has arranged for the young men brought up to believe that they are brothers Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri, jolly and steadfastly egalitarian Venetian gondoliers, to rule jointly until it can be sorted out which is the secretly-stolen-away-in-infancy heir to the throne. The poor Inquisitor has frequently to deal with the obstacle of the boys' unfortunate egalitarianism.

Act II, "There lived a king, as I've been told"

There lived a king, as I've been told,
In the wonder-working days of old,
When hearts were twice as good as gold,
And twenty times as mellow.
Good temper triumphed in his face,
And in his heart he found a place
For all the erring human race
And every wretched fellow.
When he had Rhenish wine to drink
It made him very sad to think
That some, at junket or at jink,
Must be content with toddy.
With toddy, must be content with toddy.
He wished all men as rich as he
(And he was rich as rich could be),
So to the top of every tree
Promoted everybody.
Now, that's the kind of king for me.
He wished all men as rich as he,
So to the top of every tree
Promoted everybody!
Lord chancellors were cheap as sprats,
And bishops in their shovel hats
Were plentiful as tabby cats--
In point of fact, too many.
Ambassadors cropped up like hay,
Prime ministers and such as they
Grew like asparagus in May,
And dukes were three a penny.
On every side field marshals gleamed,
Small beer were lords-lieutenant deemed,
With admirals the ocean teemed
All round his wide dominions.
All round his wide dominions.
And party leaders you might meet
In twos and threes in every street
Maintaining, with no little heat,
Their various opinions.
Now that's a sight you couldn't beat--
Two party leaders in each street
Maintaining, with no little heat,
Their various opinions.
That king, although no one denies
His heart was of abnormal size,
Yet he'd have acted otherwise
If he had been acuter.
The end is easily foretold,
When every blessed thing you hold
Is made of silver, or of gold,
You long for simple pewter.
When you have nothing else to wear
But cloth of gold and satins rare,
For cloth of gold you cease to care--
Up goes the price of shoddy.
Up goes the price of shoddy.
In short, whoever you may be,
To this conclusion you'll agree,
When every one is somebodee,
Then no one's anybody!
Now that's as plain as plain can be,
To this conclusion we agree--
When every one is somebodee,
Then no one's anybody!

Kenneth Sandford (b), Don Alhambra; Thomas Round (t), Marco Palmieri; Alan Styler (b), Giuseppe Palmieri; New Symphony Orchestra of London, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded September 1960

Owen Brannigan (bs), Don Alhambra del Bolero; Richard Lewis (t), Marco Palmieri; John Cameron (b), Giuseppe Palmieri; Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Mar. 11-15, 1957

Arthur Sullivan, I'm sure I would have wanted to point out, possessed a quality of deep empathy remarkably similar to Mozart's -- at least when he was collaboratign with W. S. Gilbert.


Justin's intricately planned excursion came off virtually without a hitch. (One hitch: Our final destination, the Walkway Over the Hudson -- a former railway bridge at Poughkeepsie which has been converted into a park -- where the rain that had been playing hide-and-seek with us all day finally opened up with a vengeance.)

Plus I'd already boxed myself in schedulewise by taking on a near-free ticket offered for pianist Peter Serkin's recital last night at 8pm the 92nd Street Y, meaning I wouldn't be home till the vicinity of 10:30 or 11. In order to clear the day I'd already written three blogposts Friday night -- two for Friday night and one for last night, and then I still had to get two written for today, around a scheduled 11am Municipal Arts Society walking tour of the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and a play this evening.

Still, it was Peter Serkin, one of the most respected musicians of our time. The program didn't thrill me, but then, it didn't repel me. At least there was no Messiaen, a known enthusiasm of Peter's.

And in the event it all worked out fine. Justin had estimated our return to the city around 7, if not earlier, and I'd worried that I might have too much time between the return and the concert. In the event, the time was a little tight, thanks to the crush of traffic trying to get into the Lincoln Tunnel. But I wasn't tense. On the contrary, I was feeling great. The outing had been a total blast, with Justin in high spirits even for him, and his usual torrent of historical, geographical, and biographical illumination pouring forth, overlapping and intersecting all over the place, and I was certainly primed for the recital.

Which lasted maybe a minute -- or a quarter of the way through a little fugal capriccio that's attributed, likely erroneously, to the 16th-17th-century Dutch master Jan Sweelinck. For a performer of Peter Serkin's standing, the performance seemed to me purposeless, devoid of any recognizable shaping. And then the thing went to hell with three pieces -- an Adagio, Intrada, and Scherzo by Charles Wuorinen, enjoying much attention for his 75th birthday, and half of a mutual admiration society with the soloist (he was on hand and came onstage when we finally got to the end). I had hoped the pieces might be shorter, but they were 14, 8, and 10 minutes respectively, and to my ears they were an unrelenting abomination. I tried listening as it this was all somehow some kind of joke, but I couldn't figure a way to arrange that such that we the audience weren't the butt of the joke.

Maybe we could talk about that some other time, or maybe we shouldn't, but I certainly wasn't hanging around. It meant that I was home earlier that expected, but in no way inclined to write. Instead I knocked back a couple of episode's of Gilmore Girls, now that I've reached Season 8 in my second traversal of the series.

I figured, though, that I would have an hour and a half this morning to write something, and that plan still seemed workable when I woke up 45 minutes earlier than planned, and realized I could slip in an extra Gilmore Girls episode. But I wasn't reckoning on my next episode -- from the height of the Great Estrangement between mother and daughter Lorela (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) -- ending with Lorelai's father, Richard (Edward Herrmann) showing up at Lorelai's doorstep, saying, "We have to talk about Rory." And then the next episode led right into the grim episode of Rory's 21st birthday.

And I had to make a decision: Would I rather continue with Gilmore Girls or get to my Grand Concourse tour?


. . . in the mailbox I found a CD I'd ordered, the soundtrack recording from the 1957 NBC TV production of Annie Get Your Gun, with Mary Martin and John Raitt. So instead of writing the originall intended post, I thought we'd listen to some of that.

IRVING BERLIN: Annie, Get Your Gun

"Doin' What Comes Naturally"

Mary Martin (Annie Oakley)

"The Girl That I Marry"

John Raitt (Frank Butler)

"I Got the Sun in the Mornin' "

Mary Martin (Annie Oakley)

"Anything You Can Do"

Mary Martin (Annie Oakley), John Raitt (Frank Butler)
1957 NBC TV Cast recording. Capitol-EMI

Giulietta Simionato (ms), Ettore Bastianini (b); Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. Decca, recorded 1960

Sorry, but I couldn't resist resurrecting the performance of "Anything You Can Do" from Decca's 1960 Fledermaus Gala with the great mezzo Giulietta Simionato and that lusty baritone Ettore Bastianini.

And that's pretty much where we are this afternoon.

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