A TERRIBLE KISMET. WHERE'S DRAKE WHEN YOU NEED HIM?
Alan W. Petrucelli | THE ENTERTAINMENT REPORT (ALAN W. PETRUCELLI) | 08/30/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"DRG has reissued the 1964 Capitol recording of Kismet--and without apology. For fans of Gordon MacRae and Dorothy Kirsten, this may be cause for some rejoicing, but all others should beware. MacRae is all butch and blustery, and Kirsten sounds as if she is all too eager to return to the Metropolitan Opera. As MacRae combines the roles of the Hajj and the Caliph, and there is no one singing the Wazir, and the best music in the show, the quartet "And This is My Beloved," becomes a decidedly peculiar duet. The role of the sexpot wife of the Wazir, Lalume, is sung by a serviceable lady with the singular name of Bunny Bishop, conjuring images of a high-church cleric with astoundingly large ears.
There are at least four other Kismet recordings, the London studio cast with Valerie Masterson, a recent American studio recording with Samuel Ramey and Julia Migenes, the lamentable Vincente Minneli movie version starring Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, and Vic Damone, and, of course, the original Broadway cast album. The MacRae-Kirsten recording is arguably the worst, but the problem here really is that the original cast recording is so much better than any of the others that one has to wonder why they even bothered. Alfred Drake is stunning as the poet Hajj, Doretta Morrow heartbreakingly beautiful as his daughter Marsinah, a youthful Richard Kiley sings the bejesus out of the Caliph and, as Lalume, the treasured Joan Diener--who only recently left us to go sing with the angels--blows roof off with her several numbers.
The MacRae-Kirsten recording cuts the score down to 10 numbers running just over 50 minutes, and the voices and general production values have a slapdash feeling that pales in comparison to the lush, sexy, funny and entirely satisfying original cast. For ardent fans of either of the singers, this is a chance to hear them at their prime, but all others would be wise to avoid this Kismet."
Studio cast version trails all other KISMETS by far
Mark Andrew Lawrence | Toronto | 09/14/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Though Gordon MacRae and Dorothy Kirsten give decent enough performances, this recording with no tie to any stage revival lacks theatricality, and is not as compelete as some of the other available versions.
DRG deserves praise for their efforts to relased eavery known cast album on CD, but in this case they seem to be scarping the bottom of the barrel.
The original Broadway cast (available from SONY) should be the KISMET of choice: Full cast, glorious performances, wide open spacious (albeit mono) sound and a first rate album production by Goddard Lieberson. Original cast star Alfred Drake is also heard on RCA's disc of the 1965 Lincoln Center revival which offers stero sound. Three other studio cast albums are (or have been) available: A lush-sounding British recording with Mantovani conducting, and featuring Robert Merrill is highly enjoyable. TER/JAY offer a deluxe 2-CD set that is note complete even including cut songs and alternates. The 1991 Sony release is a fine digital recording starring Samual Ramey. Any of these are worthwhile alternatives to the original Broadway cast disc. (There is also the soundtrack CD from the M-g-M film but that represents a different animal.)
MacRae anc company did a series of operettas for Capitol in the early 1960s: THE DESERT SONG, THE NEW MOON, and THE STUDET PRINCE. Highlights from these were at one time combined on a single CD but the recordings need to be out on CD in their complete form. Even better would be to bring back the old Capitol 10" Lp's inspired by MacRae's Railroad Hour of potted operettas. Capitol recorded 9 in all eash little album distilling the scores to a well-sung 25 minute selection. The MacRae & company operettas were: THE MERRY WIDOW, THE RED MILL, NAUGHTY MARIETTA, THE STUDENT PRINCE, THE VAGABOND KING, THE DESERT SONG, THE NEW MOON, plus Kern's ROBERTA and Porter's KISS ME KATE (not operettas, but still part of the series.) All 9 could make a spectacular 3-CD set that would also serve as a chronicle of early 20th century musical theatre. How about it, DRG?"
Kirsten at her best
Thomas H. Israel | Lebanon, PA | 02/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Kismet" is filled with glorious music based on various works by the Russian composer Borodin; therefore, I was delighted to discover that the excerpts recorded by Dorothy Kirsten and Gordon MacRae were recently made available in CD format, thanks to DRG. I was always especially fond of the LP release once available from EMI.
Dorothy Kirsten possessed one of the loveliest soprano voices of recent times and she was highly regarded for her flair with light music. She never sounded like an opera star slumming. Her solos and duets on this release are quite stunning. Gordon MacRae and Dorothy worked together on countless radio shows and made a winning team, and this is readily apparent in this recording.
In addition, the sound is really first-rate! It's a splendid CD which I highly recommend!