Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Given that I love the Opera so much, I often wonder why it is that I dislike musicals so much. I’ve heard people say that it’s snobbery of some sort. I don’t think that’s true at all. After all, I do love a lot of the songs that appear in musicals – especially those from the classic American composers, such as Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein and (in this particular case) Rodgers and Hart. I’d say some of these songs are among the cleverest, wittiest and most engaging musical pieces ever composed. I suppose it must be that I just don’t find the shows themselves as interesting as some of the songs in them.

Anyway, I’ve had this one at the back of my mind since I heard it on Private Passions recently. It is from the musical Pal Joey was picked by Alan Bennett who praised it for its brilliant lyrics, full of cheeky rhymes, such as:

Vexed again, perplexed again
Thank God, I can be oversexed again

And this great song is made greater still in this performance by the sublime vocal artistry of the late great Ella Fitzgerald.

7 Responses to “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”

  1. I find songs such as this quite romantic, I love Opera, but I’m not a snob, I recently tried to watch “Miss Saigon”, as it was supposed to be based on Madam Butterfly, I couldn’t get into it At All, it was so awful, I switched the DVD off after just a few minutes in.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      There’s something about Boublil and Schoenberg. In the 1980s I loved Les Miserables, but I later came to view it as what I inadequately call “ego music”; almost every song seems to be about what *I* (the character singing) should or must do in this tough situation, endless mock-heroic agonising out loud. I can’t bear it.

  2. John Peacock Says:

    Interesting: I would have said the exact opposite. The plots in most operas are completely uninvolving, but with great composers the quality of the music makes you prepared to overlook this deficiency. Musicals tend to be more credible in terms of deploying characters and telling a story, but generally the music isn’t so good. There are certainly exceptions to this rule: West Side Story is a masterpiece from all points of view, for example (and it is certainly a musical: Bernstein made a recording of the piece with opera singers, and it was a disaster).

    • telescoper Says:

      I heard a recording of West Side Story with the original Broadway cast and hated it – the singing was horrifically out of tune. But opera singers are trained for a different genre, and though they might actually get the right notes the voices probably just sound wrong.

      That said, I agree that West Side Story has some of the greatest music in it – Somewhere is one of my favourite songs.

      • John Peacock Says:

        The thing about WSS is it’s not just a few hits like Somewhere – the music is consistently memorable from start to finish. People sometimes complain that Bernstein was copying from classical greats in places, but as Picasso is supposed to have said, “bad artists copy, great artists steal”.

      • I think that Picasso stole that quote from someone else. 🙂

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