I Wish It So - Dawn Upshaw

Author: 
Patrick O'Connor

I Wish It So - Dawn Upshaw

  • Candide, Glitter and be gay (wds. Wilbur)
  • Madwoman of Central Park West, My new friends
  • West Side Story, I feel pretty
  • Juno
  • No for an Answer
  • Reuben, Reuben
  • Anyone Can Whistle, A Parade in Town
  • Saturday Night, What More Do I Need
  • (The) Girls of Summer, The Girls of Summer
  • Merrily We Roll Along, Like It Was
  • Evening Primrose, Take Me to the World
  • One Touch of Venus, That's him (Venus)
  • Lady in the Dark, The Saga of Jenny (Liza)
  • Lady in the Dark, My ship
  • Lost in the Stars, Stay Well

Bernstein, Blitzstein Sondheim and Weill are a good quartet to explore in a recital. The connections between the four are like a relay race. (Bernstein conducted famous performances of works by Weill and Blitzstein, the 1950s hit translation of Weill's Dreigroschenoper was by Blitzstein, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for Bernstein's West Side Story, and so on.)
Dawn Upshaw's clear soprano is well suited to nearly all these songs. The Blitzstein numbers will only be familiar to specialists. ''I wish it so'' from Blitzstein's adaptation of O'Casey's Juno seems to herald the mood of the whole disc, songs of longing, some optimistic, some resigned. ''In the clear'' is one of the songs from No for an Answer, Blitzstein's follow-up to The Cradle win Rock; it was first given in 1940, the same week that saw the first night of Weill's Lady in the Dark. ''In the clear'' was once recorded by Muriel Smith (an early LP all-Blitzstein recital that would be nice to have on CD, someone, please), its theme, ''There are no fanfares to hear—you're just in the clear'' is like a framework balance to the merrier Sondheim ''There won't be trumpets''. In the Blitzstein Eric Stern's arrangement with a solo cello part played by Matthias Niegele turns the songs into a melancholy lullaby. This and a brilliant performance of ''Glitter and be gay'' from Candide are my favourite tracks. They show off Dawn Upshaw's impressive range—from the coloratura of the Bernstein to mezzo-ish moodiness for the Blitzstein.
Among the Sondheim songs, ''Like it was'' from Merrily We Roll Along makes an interesting contrast with Julie Andrews's much more inward tense version in the Sondheim revue, Putting It Together (7/94), and ''Take me to the world'' is used as a pendant to ''Never get lost'', originally a quartet in Blitzstein's Reuben, Reuben. Of the Weill songs, ''Stay well'' from Lost in the Stars is especially successful, and ''That's him'' from One Touch of Venus is playful, though Upshaw doesn't dare the layers of double entendres that Mary Martin so skilfully extracted in the original-cast recording. The two numbers from Lady in the Dark are given the most extensive overhaul, the melody of ''The saga of Jenny'' such as it is disappears beneath Larry Wilcox's rearrangement and although Upshaw sings ''My ship'' quite beautifully, again Daniel Troob has made an arrangement that pulls it about rather.
All in all, this is a very attractive foray into the Broadway territory: 1994 has been the thirtieth anniversary of Marc Blitzstein's death. Before his centenary in 2005 I suspect we will hear a lot more of his music—I hope so—and if Eric Stern and Dawn Upshaw are giving us a foretaste of their part in the revival, this CD bodes well.'

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