Even better is La Cieca’s remix. Enterprising folks can make their own.
This is an especially funny (both ha-ha funny and funny as in peculiar) example of what happens when crossover goes wrong. Elsewhere in the Parterre vaults is an audio clip of Renata Scotto singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at a farewell gala for Beverly Sills. Even better is the story that goes with it. Ethel Merman had to share a dressing room with La Scotto:
About 15 minutes before curtain time, the quiet hum of backstage activity is rent by a sudden yell of “Jesus Christ!”
Everyone turns around, and suddenly Merman bolts into the corridor, wearing only bra, panty girdle, hose, platform shoes, body microphone, wig and jewelry. Someone asks, “Is something wrong, Miss Merman?”
Merman trumpets, “Somebody tell that insane bitch in there to shut up with the goddamn vocalizing! For two hours she’s been at it, and she’s driving me fucking crazy!”
Peering into the dressing room one sees La Scotto calmly seated before the mirror in caftan and turban. She takes a sip of hot tea with honey, gently clears her throat and sings:”Some-where . . . Some-where o-ver . . . no, no, cosi non va bene . . . Some-where . . . ah, ah, meglio, meglio . . . Some-where, o-ver the . . . ah, NO! Some-where o-ver the rain-bow . . . ah, si, si . . . that’s it! Some-where . . .”
And Merman growls: “Tell that bitch that if she can’t sing the fucking song by now, she’ll never get it!”
The voice is a telltale medium, unforgiving of crossover. Benny Goodman playing the Mozart clarinet quintet is plausible, if unexciting. But singers trying a style of music outside their specialty are naked before our ear’s ability to detect minute distinctions of diction, timbre, attack, intonation, etc. If you haven’t really marinated in the idiom you’re singing — if you haven’t fully absorbed its unwritten traditions — you just end up pissing off Ethel Merman.
This is interesting. The singer, CaroLuna Michelson, claims some conservatory training, but to my ear she’s basically a pop singer. A while back I was listening to a recording of Maria Callas coaching a soprano named Pamela Hebert in Callas’s legendary masterclasses at Juilliard. Hebert sang “Casta Diva,” and Callas threw a tiny diva fit (“I cannot let that go by. I will not let that go by.”) over the fact that, on the little turn ornament at the end of the first note of the aria, Hebert sharpened the lower-neighbor tone. This is a mistake, Callas explains; this is not Bellini’s style, and the vocal tradition does not allow it. I was curious about this, and listened to about a half-dozen recordings of Casta Diva, especially from the early part of the century. And Callas is right — no-one adds the sharp on the lower neighbor tone. It may sound like a small detail, but when CaroLuna does it, it sticks out painfully — it’s a part of this sort of “American Idol” style she does. (Listen also to the way she ends the first phrase.) Compare CaroLuna with Callas:
See what I mean?