Musical Theater

‘Through the Dark of Night’ (‘Pela Escuridão’) — The Songs of ‘7 – The Musical’ (Conclusion)

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Amelia in 7 - The Musical (Moeller-Botelho-Motta)
Amelia in 7 – The Musical (Moeller-Botelho-Motta)

Make a Wish (On Second Thought, Maybe Not!)

 On this day after Christmas, what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a song on your lips! Better yet, the Songs of 7 – The Musical (7 – O musical), the adult-themed theater piece written and produced by the Brazilian musical “Dream Team” of Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho and Ed Motta.

Back, by popular demand, are the English lyrics to the Second and Final Act of this unforgettable musical theater extravaganza, first staged in Rio de Janeiro on September 1, 2007:

  

ACT TWO

"The Heart in the Forest" - Clara, Bianca, the Dwarfs
“The Heart in the Forest” – Clara, Bianca, the Dwarfs

“A HEART IN THE FOREST” (Young Men, Clara)

THERE’S A WOUNDED HEART IN THE FOREST

THERE’S YOUR PRINCE CHARMING

A PUMPKIN, A COACHMAN

A CLOCK WILL STRIKE AT TWELVE

A CALENDAR THAT READS OF SEVEN

 

THERE’S A WOUNDED HEART IN THE RAINSTORM

FROGS THAT GO LEAPING

RIGHT OUT OF THE OCEAN

SO WHAT’S YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

WHEN THE CLOCK WILL STRIKE THE HOUR?

 

HUNTER WITH A HORN

RIDER ON HIS HORSE

WHO WILL THEN INVADE MY BASTION?

AND WHEN WILL HE ENCHANT ME WITH FEELING,

ARDOR

PASSION

 

AH AH AH AH AH AH …

 

HUNTER WITH A HORN

RIDER ON HIS HORSE

WHO WILL THEN INVADE MY BASTION?

AND WHEN WILL HE ENCHANT ME WITH FEELING,

ARDOR

PASSION

 

"Mop That Dirty Floor" - Clara
“Mop That Dirty Floor” – Clara
  1. “MOP THAT DIRTY FLOOR” (Clara)

MOP THAT DIRTY FLOOR

TRA LA LA LA LA

SAID THE WICKED OLD STEPMOTHER

LOCKS HER UP, THEN SHUTS THE CUPBOARD

 

TIDY UP THAT ROOM

TRA LA LA LA LA

MAKES SNOW WHITE A CLEANING SERVANT,

WASH THAT WINDOW, CLOSE THOSE CURTAINS…

"Little Baby at My Door" - Dona Rosa, et al.
“Little Baby at My Door” – Dona Rosa, et al.
  1. “LITTLE BABY AT MY DOOR” (Rosa, Carmen, Odette)

A LITTLE BABE

CAME KNOCKING AT MY DOORSTEP

LOVELY

MAGICAL

A LITTLE BUD

THAT FLOWERED IN MY GARDEN

FRESH AND

BEAUTIFUL

LIKE A BLOSSOM ON THE FLOOR

LITTLE BABY AT MY DOOR

 

I CAN SEE HER DIAPERS PILING HIGH

HER BABY FOOD CAME SPITTING UP WITH SIGHS

SAY HELLO TO ALL YOU COLDS AND SORES

ALL THOSE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS GALORE!

 

A BABY GIRL

THAT’S LANDED ON OUR DOORSTEP

GORGEOUS

MIRACLE

A SWEET BOUQUET

THAT OCCUPIED MY SUNSET

LIVELY

LYRICAL

 

THE RAIN AND THUNDER

CRASHED UPON MY HEAD

HER TINY HAND IT WAS

THAT CHOSE INSTEAD

SHE ARRIVED, I THRIVED

SHE CAME, I CRIED

SHE’S MINE, SHE’S MINE

ALL MINE – ALL MINE!

 

"Oh, Look at Me" - Amelia, the Dwarfs
“Oh, Look at Me” – Amelia, the Dwarfs
  1. “OH, LOOK AT ME” (Amelia)

OH, LOOK AT ME

I IMPLORE YOU

ALL THAT’S IN ME

BEGGING FOR AID

FROM YOU

FROM YOU

 

WHAT DID YOU SEE?

MY LIFE AS IT WAS THEN

MY TRUE SELF

MY DARK SIDE AS WELL

MY CALM, MY CALM

 

SO TAKE ME AWAY

IN A CARRIAGE

TAKE

ME AWAY FROM THE BALL THIS NIGHT

THE DAWN

 

TIME PASSED ME BY

AND MY FATE HAS BEEN TOSSED

AT YOUR FEET

 

TAKE CARE OF MY NIGHTS,

NEVER RESTING

ALL THAT’S IN ME

TREMBLING WITH LOVE

WITH LOVE

TRUE LOVE

 

TELL ME I’LL BE

YOUR SLAVE AND YOUR SERVANT,

A LOYAL MAID

FAITHFUL AND TRUE

SO TRUE

SO TRUE

 

AND SO

NOTHING’S LEFT THAT MATTERS

COME

AND THE DOORS WILL BE CLOSING SOON

SO SOON

 

COME, HURRY, OH HURRY, TAKE CARE OF ME

TAKE CARE OF THE HURT THAT AILS ME INSIDE

OH HURRY, BE QUICK FOR THE SUN HAS COME OUT

ALL THAT’S LEFT FOR ME HERE IS TO HIDE

COME AWAY

 

COME AWAY

AWAY

 

 

  1. “HERCULANO’S SECOND LULLABY” (Herculano)

MOMMY’S ON HER WAY

TRA LA LA LA LA

SHE’S JUST COMING ‘ROUND THE CORNER

DADDY SINGS SO BABY’S CALMER

 

BEWARE THE WITCH

SHE’S ON HER WAY

SHE WILL BITE YOU

SHE WILL GRAB YOU …

 

WATCH HER CLOSELY

 

 

  1. “HE’LL ARRIVE ON TIME” (Amelia, Bianca)

LIKE THE DAY OF A WEDDING

LIKE THE END OF A SEASON

LIKE THE SMILE ON A BABY

LIKE THE SWEETS AT A BANQUET

LIKE A BREEZE FROM THE OCEAN

 

HE’LL ARRIVE ON TIME

HE’LL ARRIVE, I KNOW

 

HE WILL WIPE AWAY

MY TEARDROPS

ALL MY SORROWS, ALL

ALL OF THEM

 

HE’LL ERASE FROM ME

 

HE’LL ERASE FROM ME

 

MARKS OF MY DESPAIR

 

MARKS OF MY DESPAIR

HE WILL WIPE THEM CLEAN

 

THEY’LL BE WIPED AWAY

 

THE SHADOWS

FROM THIS FACE OF MINE

 

SHADOWS

 

FROM THIS FACE

Clara & the Seven Young Men (aka Dwarfs)
Clara & the Seven Young Men (aka Dwarfs)

 

  1. “MY HEART ON YOUR HEART” (CLOSING NUMBER: Amelia, Old Mistress)

MY HEART ON YOUR HEART

MY KINDNESS, MY PASSION, MY ALL

THE MOON IN THE SKY

WILL RISE AGAIN TONIGHT, MY HEART

 

THE ONE I ADORE…

 

MY HEART ON YOUR HEART

MY KINDNESS, MY PASSION, MY ALL

THE MOON IN THE SKY

WILL RISE AGAIN TONIGHT, MY HEART

 

THE ONE I ADORE!

 

The Women of 7 - The Musical
The Women of 7 – The Musical

 

Curtain

 

T H E   E N D

 

Book by writer/director Charles Möeller

Portuguese Lyrics by musical director Claudio Botelho

Music by singer/composer/performer Ed Motta

English translation and English lyrics by Josmar Lopes

 

Copyright © 2016 by Josmar F. Lopes

A Brazilian on Broadway: Bibi Ferreira, the Grande Dame of the Brazilian Stage, Takes a Slice Out of the Big Apple

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Bibi Ferreira at Symphony Space in Manhattan, Sep 20, 2016
Bibi Ferreira at Symphony Space in Manhattan, on September 20, 2016

Birth of the Rio Blues

On June 1, 1922, when Bibi Ferreira let out her first wail as the newborn infant of theater actor Procópio Ferreira and his Spanish-born spouse, the ballerina Aida Izquierdo, neither Rio de Janeiro, the city of her birth, nor the country of Brazil looked anything like they appear today.

Looking back on that period, in February of that same year the Semana de Arte Moderna (Week of Modern Art) in São Paulo had finally brought the Modernist movement into the front line of Brazil’s literary, artistic, and musical establishment; Bidu Sayão was at or near the beginning of her vocal studies in France with the legendary Jean de Reszke; Carmen Miranda was a precocious 13-year-old whose only ambition in life was to enter a convent; Heitor Villa-Lobos, who made his bow at the Semana de Arte Moderna, had his first series of piano pieces, A Prole do Bebê (“The Baby’s Family”), played in Rio by Polish virtuoso Artur Rubenstein.

Contemporaneous with the above, American jazz, which musicologists confirm grew out of turn-of-the-century New Orleans, was about to secure a beachhead on Brazilian shores; on that note, one of the acknowledged icons of the Jazz Age, dancer and entertainer Josephine Baker, was poised to leave an indelible mark on the Great White Way during the Harlem Renaissance; and the music/dance form known as samba, as well as Rio’s colorful Carnival parade, would soon emerge from their mutual confinement.

For me, a Brazilian-born naturalized citizen who grew up in parts of the Bronx and mid-Manhattan, seeing a personality of the magnitude of Bibi Ferreira, the “Grande Dame of the Brazilian Stage,” as she is so often billed, in a lightning-fast tour of North America enlivened my own visit to the Big Apple in ways I never expected.

It was on the afternoon of September 20. I had finally settled into my hotel room, a short walking distance from the Empire State Building. After unpacking my bag and hanging my belongings in a smallish but conveniently spaced closet, I leafed through the usual tourist pamphlets left there by the hotel’s concierge. Opening up to an advertisement in Time Out magazine, I noticed a full-page spread by the Ministry of Culture and a talent agency labeled Montenegro e Raman announcing the presence of Brazilian Musical Icon, Bibi Ferreira, on the evening of September 20 and 23, at 8 p.m., at Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th Street.

Advertisement in Time Out Magazine for "4X Bibi"
Advertisement in Time Out Magazine for “4X Bibi”

I could hardly believe what the ad was telling me: Did this mean that Bibi Ferreira was going to appear on September 20, the same date as my arrival? No, that couldn’t be right. I must have misread the notice. Yeah, that’s it. How silly of me! Still, the thought of being in New York on the first day of Bibi’s concert continued to nag at me. Trying to get some clarification, with care I re-read the magazine ad. Sure enough, the concert was going to be held that very evening.

Holy cow! What was I waiting for? This was the opportunity of a lifetime. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined seeing and hearing Bibi Ferreira, live and in the flesh, in a New York City concert hall. It was too good to be true. On a hunch, I quickly rang the Symphony Space’s box office and managed to secure a ticket for that night’s performance. Mercy me! How lucky could a guy be?

A Worthy Pedigree

The show was titled “4X Bibi” (“Quatro Vezes Bibi”), that is “Bibi Times Four.” This indicated that the former Abigail Izquierdo Ferreira, or “Bibi” for short, who, as the story goes, was introduced to the stage at barely a month old, would be performing a program of songs associated with her previous one-woman shows by four of the world’s most unique talents (none of whom were Brazilian): Portuguese fadista Amalia Rodrigues, Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel, French chanteuse Édith Piaf, and Hoboken-born pop idol Frank Sinatra. Not only was this show in celebration of Ole Blue Eyes’ one hundredth birthday, which took place last December 2015, but also Bibi’s 75 years as an artist and entertainer.

An acclaimed stage and screen icon; a memorable interpreter of classic Broadway musicals, and of popular songs and romantic ballads; a dancer, director, and theater manager, with numerous productions to her credit; a raconteur and television personality — though never as flamboyant as her contemporary, the bawdy Dercy Gonçalves — 94-year-old Bibi has long been associated with the cream of Brazil’s performing talents in virtually every artistic category.

Among the more familiar names are those of her father Procópio; the actors Paulo Autran and Cacilda Becker; playwright Paulo Pontes (her former husband) who died tragically of stomach cancer at age 36; singer-songwriter Chico Buarque; Walmor Chagas, Marilia Pêra, and Marco Nanini. She has also appeared in or directed works by Pontes, Flavio Rangel, Ferreira Gullar, Lillian Hellman, and Sergio Viotti, in addition to producing shows for Maria Bethânia, Clara Nunes, and dozens more.

In other words, we are talking about theatrical royalty, an enviable title to set alongside such accomplished personalities as Fernanda Montenegro, Gloria Menezes, Nicette Bruno, Eva Wilma, and Laura Cardoso, among others. On the Broadway side, we have Fanny Brice, Gertrude Lawrence, Ethel Merman, Constance Bennett, Mary Martin, Judy Garland, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Carol Channing, Barbara Cook, Patti LuPone, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, and Audra McDonald. Indeed, Bibi Ferreira’s name is as worthy of inclusion in the company of all these great artists as any performer I know.

While waiting on the ticketholder’s line, I spoke to several Brazilians, including a fellow named Patrick, the owner of a Brazilian churrascaria (barbecue steakhouse) in midtown. He introduced me to his mother, a lady of about 70, who told me that she had first seen Bibi in concert when she was a little girl. Once inside the theater, I took my seat in the upper balcony, it being a relatively small, shoe-box shaped auditorium with decent sight lines and more than acceptable acoustics.

Amalia Rodrigues, Portuguese fado singer (alchetron.com)
Amalia Rodrigues, Portuguese fado singer (alchetron.com)

Before the show started, I was engaged in an informative conversation with the couple in front of me, Seu Roberto and his wife, who came from the northeastern state of Bahia and were spending their vacation in the city. They, too, had seen Bibi perform on previous occasions, and were eager to see her again.

Brazilians are a gregarious and outgoing lot by nature, and will often open up to strangers with little to no effort. With that in mind, Seu Roberto clued me in on what one of Bibi’s shows would be like: her band leader, maestro Flávio Mendes, would lead Ms. Ferreira to the center of the stage. During the course of her presentation, Mendes or one of the other gentlemen would stop to offer refreshment or ask if she needed any assistance.

One of the members of her group, Nilson Raman, a former model, actor, producer, and Bibi’s manager, as well as the head of the Montenegro e Raman agency that brought her to the Big Apple, would provide a running commentary, taking turns with another participant (whose name escaped me) about her life as a performer.

Show-Stopping Moments

Even though the concert was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., the theater was far from full. I caught maestro Mendes peering out from behind a curtain. He was checking to see how much longer they could wait before Bibi made her entrance. The crowd, made up of the elite of New York’s Brazilian expatriate community (the average age must have been well over 50), along with some obvious initiates, took its time to fill the theater. No one seemed to mind, however, that the show was delayed by half an hour. In fact, it gave the populace additional time to chat among themselves.

One by one, the band of twelve musicians ventured forth and took their positions on stage. Finally, the star herself came out, slowly and cautiously at first, befitting her advanced age. Bibi was led to the front of the stage platform with Raman to her right and Mendes to her left. The other gentleman, many decades younger than Bibi, took over for Mendes as the two narrators assumed their spots at stage right.

There stood Bibi Ferreira, in fabulous form. Wearing a stunning white gown with diamond earrings dangling from her ears, Bibi was glamour personified. Her hair was a burnished red-brown color. Her eyebrows were thin reddish wisps of straight lines. Her face was taut, her skin pulled back tightly. Settling down in a chair before the microphone, Bibi blew kisses to the waiting audience who answered them with whoops, shrieks, and squeals of delight at the presence of such a beloved figure.

Bibi Ferreira on stage at Symphony Space, Broadway and 95th Street
Bibi Ferreira on stage at Symphony Space, Broadway and 95th Street

A standing ovation greeted Bibi as she entered. This was before she even had a chance to open her mouth. In all my years of theater-going (if I had to calculate, I’d say there were 40+ in total), I have never witnessed a case where the audience stood up to honor an artist before her or she performed. Only with someone of the unquestioned acumen of a Judy Garland, a Liza Minnelli, or a Barbra Streisand, or quite possibly Sinatra himself, might such a thing have occurred. There were rounds and rounds of applause for Bibi, so much so that it was hard to get the show going. Truly, this was a moment to be savored, a loving tribute to a living legend.

Just as Seu Roberto had predicted, the concert opened with each of the commentators intoning a brief narrative about the star and her past exploits. They spoke in Portuguese-inflected English, which could have used the tighter editorial hand of an experienced translator (such as me perhaps?). Despite some lapses in pronunciation — for example, “try-byoot” instead of “tribute” — the narration tended to flow smoothly.

Bibi began her show with fado, most of them associated with Amalia Rodrigues, to include a brief bit from “Uma casa portuguesa” (“A Little Portuguese House”) by Vasco Matos Sequiera and Artur Fonseca. I missed the bell-like plucking of the twelve-string Portuguese guitar, and the participation of a cellist and accordionist onstage were certainly no substitute for the real thing.

In between numbers, there was some fascinating history imparted about Os Mouros, the Moors who inhabited Portugal nearly 400 centuries ago. They practically invented the genre, we were told, specifically in the Mouraria section of Lisbon where fado was most strongly ingrained. Bibi, whose paternal grandparents were natives of the island of Madeira, eased into her set by lavishing these wonderful solos with her impeccable Lusitanian Portuguese. She stirred the soul of her listeners (this writer included), and would do so for any Brazilian whose ancestors were descended from the mother country. Audience members were heard humming along with Bibi. Consequently, this first section was greeted with a rousing ovation.

Tangos by Carlos Gardel followed soon after, which began with “Esta Noche Me Emborracho” (“I Think I’ll Get Drunk Tonight”). We learned from Bibi’s own lips that her mother, Aida Izquierdo, insisted she only speak Spanish to her as a child. So for the first seven years of her life, Bibi’s primary language was, in fact, Spanish. By the merest coincidence, it happened that my father’s siblings (and dad himself, so he informed me) also learned to converse in that tongue, thanks to my Spanish-born grandparents.

Bibi went on to reveal that Argentine tangos are loaded with slang, which made some of the words and their meaning difficult to comprehend by non-natives such as herself. Repeating a line she had sung only minutes before, Bibi insisted she had no idea what it meant. The puzzled look on her face alone was worth the price of admission, more so for the candor with which she expressed this tantalizing bit of trivia.

Little Bibi, with her Aida Izquierdo and father Procopio Ferreira (abroadwayeaqui.com.br)
Little Bibi, with her mother Aida Izquierdo and father Procopio Ferreira (abroadwayeaqui.com.br)

After several years of touring with her mother, Bibi returned to Rio where she met up with her estranged father (her parents had separated soon after Bibi was born). Because she was refused entry to a local school, Procópio sent his daughter to London where she was enrolled in an English academy. This meant she became equally fluent in that language as well. “I only spoke perfect English,” Bibi joked in her British-accent, as she stood up for a bow. More laughter and applause rang out at this charming little gesture.

Taking frequent sips of water and softly dabbing her nose with tissue paper, Bibi occasionally sought the need of a strong arm to steady her stage deportment. There was a moment when her manager, Nilson Raman, bent down to repeat a question Bibi hadn’t heard. The only other concession to age was her use of a TV monitor which scrolled the lyrics to each of the songs in case her memory faltered. There was little chance of that! Bibi was a true professional throughout, right down to her bones.

Start Spreading the News

Songs celebrating the extraordinary career of Francis Albert Sinatra were next on the agenda: “Night and Day” and “I Got You under My Skin,” by Cole Porter; “Old Man River” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II; “That’s Life” (Grammer, Beam, and Rose) and “The Lady is a Tramp” (Rodgers and Hart).

Of course, no concert by a Brazilian of Bibi’s generation, especially one born in Rio, would be complete without classic bossa nova from the Antonio Carlos Jobim songbook. This penultimate section featured a rousing “Água de beber” (“Water to Drink”) with lyrics by Carmen Miranda’s ex-bandleader Aloysio de Oliveira; “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” (“Corcovado”) in Norman Gimbel’s poetic English translation; and a dreamy trance-like rendition of Jobim and Newton Mendonça’s “Meditation,” in both the original and English versions (also by Gimbel).

In this portion of her program, it felt obvious to me, and probably to the viewers in attendance, that bossa nova came more naturally to Bibi than the other Sinatra specialties. Once you’ve heard Sinatra sing these numbers, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else doing them justice. Still, Bibi gave it her best shot. It’s not her fault she was born a contralto and not a basso profundo, as she struggled with the low tessitura of “Old Man River.”

And finally, we had the impassioned repertoire of the incomparable Édith Piaf, to include the ever-popular “Non, je ne regrette rien” (Dumont and Vaucaire) and “La Vie en Rose,” written and composed by Piaf herself. As an added attraction, there was an infectious duet with Nilson Raman, delivered by both star and manager in exceedingly colloquial French. Raman sounded like a cross between Charles Aznavour and Yves Montand, whom Piaf discovered and who became one of the Little Sparrow’s lovers.

In recreating one of the pivotal roles from early in her career, Bibi saved her best for last: she performed the number, “Gota d’água” (“Drop of Water”) from the play of the same name. Although the title translates to the American expression “The Last Straw,” the narrators gave the literal meaning instead. In this extract, a modern adaptation of the Euripides tragedy from Greek mythology, Bibi played Joana (aka Medea), the wronged wife of Jason. It was a gut-wrenching aria, as close to an operatic scena as one could get. The audience was given a glimpse into plain old-fashioned stage acting: her facial expressions, her body language, the cultivated way in which she enunciated the text, indeed every part of Bibi’s anatomy and being was utilized in conveying Joana’s regret. This was a priceless master class in raw theatricality.

Bibi as Joana in Paulo Pontes' Gota d'agua ("The Last Straw")
Bibi as Joana in Paulo Pontes’ Gota d’agua (“The Last Straw”)

In her introduction to the piece, Bibi, in a side note, remarked that the play was written by dramaturgist Paulo Pontes, her husband at the time. “He died much too early,” she added brusquely. Bibi took a moment to compose herself before continuing on. I was moved by this confession of feeling, seemingly buried deep down in her bosom, and brought out for the occasion. You could say it was part of the program, or call it “stage acting” if you so choose. To those of us who were watching, it was an intimate look inside an artist’s psyche — one she shared willingly with her public.

Bibi ended her program with a stirring encore of “New York, New York,” by Kander and Ebb, which brought the predominantly native audience to its feet. I couldn’t help wondering that when Bibi goes, whole generations of actor-singers will be deprived of this generational link to a lost performance art. Despite the passage of time, and the infirmities a person her age must no doubt endure, Bibi carried herself with a pride and elegance few performers would dare to mimic, and many younger ones would envy. Her good cheer, her honesty, her ability to laugh at herself, and especially her joie de vivre, were as simple and straightforward at the start as they were towards the end.

This icon of an incontrovertible Golden Age, where Nelson Rodrigues, Chico Buarque, Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, and Paulo Pontes once ruled the roost; of Amalia Rodrigues, of Carlos Gardel, of Édith Piaf, and, most notably, Sinatra and Jobim, seemed ageless and free from care. Who can take her place? One might as well ask, Who could ever replace the irreplaceable? These are rhetorical questions, of course, with the answer more than self-evident.

At the conclusion of her show, Bibi was handed two beautiful bouquets. Slowly but securely, she was escorted off the stage by the maestro and her manager. Her voice was surprisingly strong and full; the emotions, for the most part, firmly in control. Bibi never faltered, even when her microphone malfunctioned. Refitted with a livelier mike, she delivered the kind of performance rarely seen in our day.

We know that popular music is not what it was when Bibi came of age. Of the hundreds of copycat artists out there, of the thousands of faux aspirants to be heard on such TV shows as The Voice and America’s Got Talent, not a single one has demonstrated a tenth of the charisma, the drive, the tenacity, or the staying power that Bibi Ferreira still possesses.

The thing that impressed me the most, however, was how perceptive Bibi has grown about her past relationships. Her clear-eyed appraisal of her mother, although wrapped in warm and fuzzy tones, was nonetheless tinged with a hint of mild resentment. Her fond recollection of her marriage to Paulo Pontes — her last of five previous unions — was as clipped and to the point as a trained clinician. How like an actor’s daughter she was! I trust my assessments of her virtues and defects, at this late stage in her career, are equally pointed.

With all that, I can categorically confirm that Bibi Ferreira is four times the artist of anyone I have ever encountered. Her concert proved, once and for all, that age is no impediment to great art. True, she doesn’t look anything like she did when she first appeared on the scene some 60 or 70 years ago. Of one thing I am certain: not in another 94 years will we see her like again.

Copyright © 2016 by Josmar F. Lopes

Brazilian Dream Team — Möeller & Botelho (Part Three): Celebrating 25 Years of Making Beautiful Musicals Together

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Brazilian Dream Team: Charles Moeller & Claudio Botelho
Brazilian Dream Team: Charles Moeller & Claudio Botelho

Time to Remember…

A lot has happened in Brazil these past few months. Why, the headlines of the major news organizations are filled with the goings-on from below the equator. The problem is they haven’t been on the positive side of things, if reporters and media pundits are to be believed.

From the political crisis involving President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings to the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, Brazil has been reeling from a plethora of terribly bad to steadily worsening bulletins.

Unemployment is up, while GDP is down. Despite claims to the contrary, the Zika virus continues to worry athletes and participants of the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games; while the threat of bacterial infections has raised concerns with World Health Organization officials over the growing unsanitary conditions found in Rio’s Guanabara Bay.

Add to this the increasing climate of violence due to widespread police killings; the mind-blowing and ever-expanding corruption scandals at all levels of government; the shortage of available housing brought on by the massive number of evictions from Rio’s poorest districts; delays in construction and infrastructure projects that have led to cost overruns and overly optimistic projections of a return on the government’s investment.

All these factors have contributed to the disquiet and unrest that have gripped the Brazilian nation for well-on two years now.

Despite the gloomy forecast, there remains one bright spot — an oasis in the desert of political and economic instability — and that is, the continuing esteem Brazil’s musical theater has been held in by the paying public. It’s as if those MGM wartime musicals had been recreated strictly for the Brazilian market, in the way they used to divert audiences from the horrors of real life.

Today, this has been made possible by the presence of two uniquely talented individuals.

I’m referring, of course, to the Brazilian Dream Team, that dynamic duo of the Rio stage, the “Kings of Musical Theater”: director, writer, costume and set designer Charles Möeller and musical director, translator, adapter and lyricist Claudio Botelho.

I’ve given extensive coverage to Charles and Claudio’s efforts in this vein ever since I began corresponding with the “Boys from Brazil” back in October 2010, and regularly after I had met them in Manhattan in September 2011. Their work, in particular a remarkably entertaining and thoroughly absorbing theater piece named 7 – The Musical, left no doubt they were on the cusp of international stardom.

It happened that at the end of December 2015, Charles and Claudio celebrated their 25th season together as working partners and business associates. In recognition of their hitting the quarter-century mark — and in expectation of bigger and better productions on the immediate horizon — the pair granted a year-end interview to Rio de Janeiro’s Globo News.

After perusing their comments and listening to the enthusiasm they appear to express when discussing their chosen profession, I’m sure readers will agree that with Möeller and Botelho, the sun will always come out on their shows — if not tomorrow, then the day after.

And the day after that and the day after that … And boy, do we need it now!

Recounting the Duo’s Success Which Led to 38 Hit Shows

Spring Awakening, staged by Moeller & Botelho, with Leticia Colin & Rodrigo Pandolfo
Spring Awakening: staged by Moeller & Botelho, with Leticia Colin & Rodrigo Pandolfo

One is sarcastic and self-contained. The other is open and expansive. The very different and quite opposite personalities of these two gentlemen prove that Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho were born to complement each other as they embarked on a direct path to success.

They’re celebrating 25 years of a professional partnership that has borne such marvelous fruit as Cole Porter — He Never Said He Loved Me and Spring Awakening. There have been nearly 40 works signed off by the team that has also given birth to numerous other partnerships in their field: iconic actors and actresses, as well as those they have seen rise to stardom.

Here is the most recent conversation with this accomplished Carioca twosome that has become a reference point in the genre of musical theater in Brazil.

Trade Secrets

Charles Möeller: The secret of a professional relationship is in knowing when to pick your battles. The argument is the most beneficial thing that exists in a relationship because it can determine who gets the last word. When you realize there’s something bigger at stake and come to believe that it’s really worth fighting for … then the argument can only make it better. Friction is what moves us to action and causes us to accept these differences of opinion. We’re two regular guys who enjoy a good fight! Anybody who stands next to us can’t believe what they’re witnessing! You’d think we will never be able to look each other in the eye; but five minutes later we’ll act as if nothing’s happened (laughs).

Claudio Botelho: In the past we would argue almost to the point of coming to blows (laughs). Knowing how to fight is the secret, no doubt about it. If one side is right and the other side is wrong, the end result will demand at lot from us both: we always have to prove we’re right. What makes me the happiest guy in the world is the recognition we get from our work.

Artistic Affinity

Charles Möeller: We met each other as soon as I moved to Rio de Janeiro, in 1989. I was performing in a soap opera called Mico Preto (“Black Monkey”), playing Miguel Falabella’s son, who was then directing the play Um e Outro (“One and the Other”) in which Claudio was part of the cast. I attended an open rehearsal and, as soon as we started talking about musicals, we identified with each other. He was already an expert on the subject and had this goal in mind of an artistic career, while I had just left the company of Antunes Filho and had an aesthetic affinity with the genre. There was a meeting where I provided the stage pictures for a musical and Claudio provided the songs. Duos need to play off one another; those that don’t usually backfire. The neat thing is to be different.

Claudio Botelho: Musical theater is basically a craft made for twos and threes. No single person can go it alone. We only succeed because of one another. When we first met, I realized I had found someone with the same reference points as I had. It was extremely rare for someone my age to have seen the same movies as I had. We had so much love for musicals that, from one day to the next, something clicked. I thought: there’s no way we can do this [type of thing] here [in Brazil] (laughs)! I wanted to show people what I loved the most about musicals; I wanted to share with them what I found so amazing about them. I get excited when I can finally convince the public of this. My greatest pleasure is to sit in the audience and see the place go wild with what we’ve brought to the stage.

Reference to Type

Charles Möeller: We’re obsessed with the genre. It’s not a passing fancy with us, nor are we following the demands of the market. What motivates me to want to do musicals even today is the same motivation I had from the beginning: that the show transforms me and takes me out of myself. We strive for the professionalization of the genre, and lavish it with great technical care. In that way we become a brand.

Claudio Botelho: We changed the type of public that goes to musical theater, which used to be a much older crowd. The generation that watched our show Cole Porter, which really lifted us to success, doesn’t go to the theater anymore. It was Spring Awakening that brought younger audiences to the theater and exposed them to the genre. Our main focus, then, became entertainment for the whole family. We concentrate on the needs of the market, on what the competition has to offer, but without setting aside artistic quality.

All Work, All the Time

Charles Möeller: I have my favorites, but each piece I present takes such a huge chunk out of my life that I always feel the last play I work on is the one that best reflects who I am at the time. I still want to work with so many artists. I love to call on unusual people to partner with, and they end up becoming quite close. My dream is to work with Fernanda Montenegro. I also admire the work of Domingos Montagner and that of Fernanda Torres.

Claudio Botelho: It’s that old cliché of asking which child do you love the most (laughs)? The most important “child” of our career was, curiously enough, the one that made the least money: ‘7.’ It was our creation, one that garnered many awards, but the public wanted to hear more familiar tunes. Still, it was an important benchmark in our history. I, too, dream of working with Fernanda Montenegro and feel this can happen at any moment.

The Future

Coming Attractions: Ewa Wilma & Nicette Bruno in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Coming Attractions: Ewa Wilma & Nicette Bruno in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Charles Möeller: Next year [2016] we’ll present an adaptation of the movie The Apartment, in the musical Promises, Promises with Marcos Veras and Maria Clara Gueiros. In the second half of the year we’ll be bringing Pippin to the stage, with a huge cast of unknown performers!

Claudio Botelho: I’m certain that Pippin will bring the same audience that saw Spring Awakening to the show. In addition, we’ll be releasing the film Os Saltimbancos Trapalhões (“The Bandit Stooges”), and we just bought the rights to the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which has been adapted for the theater. We’ll be responsible for the world premiere showing!

By Globo Theatre, December 25, 2015

(Translation by Josmar F. Lopes – Copyright © 2016)

‘Through the Dark of Night’ (‘Pela Escuridão’): The Songs of ‘7 – The Musical’

Posted on Updated on

 

Fairy Tales Can Come True

The original cast of 7 - The Musical
The original cast of 7 – The Musical

With the box-office success of the Disney Studios’ film adaptation (directed by Rob Marshall) of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, it behooves me at this point to revisit an overlooked masterwork of Brazilian musical theater: Möeller-Botelho-Motta’s 7 – The Musical, an adult version (a VERY adult version, I should strongly add) of the Snow White story.

This elaborate excursion into the fairy-tale realm, a dark-themed noir extravaganza that explores the libidinous motivations of its principal protagonists, made its triumphant debut on September 1, 2007, in Rio de Janeiro. And since 2010, when I first heard about the show, I have spent these past several years viewing, studying, and describing the origin and background of this fabulous musical-theater piece in several blog posts (see the following link: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/be-careful-what-you-wish-for-a-brazilian-fairy-tale-musical-comes-to-the-rio-stage/).

Today, however, I want to focus primarily on the English translation of its remarkably cogent songs, some of the catchiest and melodious numbers — be they Brazilian, American or otherwise — of any stage musical in recent memory.

So, without further interference from yours truly, here are the songs of 7 – The Musical, in the order in which they appeared in the original 2007 production:

 

7 – THE MUSICAL

 

Book by CHARLES MÖELLER              

Music by ED MOTTA          

Lyrics by CLAUDIO BOTELHO

English Adaptation by JOSMAR LOPES

 

Musical Numbers 

ACT ONE:

 

  1. “SONG OF THE REQUESTS” (The Seven Young Men)

A PALE WHITE RODENT

SOME POMEGRANATE SEEDS

A TOOTH THAT’S ROTTED

A LADY’S HIGH-HEELED SHOE

A HOLY BIBLE

A WEDDING BAND

 

Amela (Alessandra Maestrini) & Carmen (Zeze Motta)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini) & Carmen (Zeze Motta)
  1. “NIGHTTIME” (Carmen, Seven Young Men)

NIGHTTIME

ALL AROUND US IS THE NIGHTTIME

ALL AROUND US IS THE BLACKNESS

ALL AROUND US IS DISTURBANCE

BUT BEHIND US IS THE DRABNESS

 

ALL THE CATS ARE DRAB AND DREARY

ALL THE AIR AROUND IS WEARY

ALL THE ALLEYWAYS ARE TWISTED

CURVING OUT OF SIGHT AND

 

Seven Young Men

IN THE DARK OF NIGHT!

 

Carmen and the Cast

AH… NIGHTTIME

SUDDENLY IT WAS THE NIGHTTIME

SUDDENLY THE SOUND OF SCREAMING

SUDDENLY A BODY FALLING

SUDDENLY IT LEFT A BLOODSTAIN

 

ON THE STREET THERE WAS A BLOODSTAIN

ON THE WALL THERE WAS AN OUTLINE

ON THE COBBLESTONES WERE FOOTSTEPS

AND THE FOOTSTEPS ECHOED

 

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

 

Carmen and the Cast

NIGHTTIME

WHEN WE LISTEN TO THE CHATTER

WHEN WE HARKEN TO THE CLATTER

OF THE VOWS THAT SEEM TO MATTER

AFTER THAT, WHAT ELSE BUT DAY BREAKS

 

WHEN THE LIGHT OF DAY ADVANCES

WHEN THE RATS GO INTO TRANCES

AND THE PIGS TURN UP THEIR NOSES

WHILE THE DEVIL SLIPS AWAY

 

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

 

 

  1. “MAGIC MIRROR’S FIRST RESPONSE” (Seven Young Men)

NOT IN THIS KINGDOM

NO, NOT IN ALL THE WORLD

IS THERE A FAIRER MAID THAN YOU

NOT IN THIS KINGDOM

 

 

  1. “MAGIC MIRROR’S SECOND RESPONSE” (Clara)

SO FAIR AND FRAGILE

THAT LOVELY GIRL, SNOW WHITE

SNOW WHITE IS FAR FAIRER THAN YOU

 

 

  1. “THE SEVENTH REQUEST” (Carmen)

BRING ME A HEART THAT’S STRONG

STILL YOUNG AND VIBRANT

HAPPY AND FREE

 

Seven Young Men

HAPPY AND FREE!

 

Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini)
  1. “HE’LL BE BACK” (Amelia)

LIKE A RUNAWAY SERVANT

WHO RETURNS TO HIS MASTER

LIKE A DEAR OLD COMPANION

LIKE A WAVE ON THE WATER

FLOWING ONE AFTER ANOTHER

 

HE’LL BE BACK, I VOW

HE’LL COME RUNNING BACK

AS THE SUN AND STARS,

THE MOONLIGHT

WILL COME OUT AS WELL

ALWAYS

 

NO EXCEPTIONS, NONE

NO THOUGHTS OR WORDS, NONE

 

HE’LL BE MINE, I SWEAR

MY LOVER

AS I’VE ALWAYS DREAMED

ALWAYS

I SWEAR

 

YOUR EYES ARE ON MINE, MY LOVE

YOUR ARMS SURROUND MY HEART

THE DOORS ARE NOW CLOSING

CLOSING FAST, MY LOVE, MY HEART

THE ONE I ADORE

 

Odette (Rogeria), Madeleine (Marya Bravo) & Elvira (Gottscha)
Odette (Rogeria), Madeleine (Marya Bravo) & Elvira (Gottscha)
  1. “DANCE AROUND THE DEAD MAN” (Odette, Elvira, Madeleine, Dead Man)

Odette

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

AND THE FLIES BUZZING HERE

 

HOW KIND

HOW MEAN

HOW HARD WAS HE IN LIFE

A FRIEND

A FOE

A HUSBAND TO HIS WIFE

 

BUT NOW

HE’S OFF

HE’S THROUGH

HE’S FLAT

HE’S BROKE

HE’S STEW

 

AND THE FLIES BUZZING HERE

ALL THOSE THINGS ‘ROUND HIS EARS

WHAT A MEAL FOR THE FLEAS

SUCH A JUICY SIGHT

THOSE BLUE FINGERTIPS

THOSE RED EYES, THOSE LIPS

ARE THEY SAYING: WHAT NOW?

 

Elvira

HE’S DEAD

HE’S DOWN

NO SOCCER GAMES, FOR SURE

HIS TRAIN

LEFT TOWN

BUT NOW HE’S GONE FOR GOOD

 

HE LEFT

HIS DOG TO MOAN

HIS LEGS

ARE STIFF AS BONES

 

HIS POOR KIDS, STRANDED THERE

 

NO MOM

NO POP

TO SAVE HIM IN THE END

NO JOY

NO HOPE

NO SERVICE FOR A FRIEND

 

IT HURTS

TO DIE

ALONE

TO LIE

HERE ON

HIS OWN

 

JUST TO WATCH ALL THOSE WORMS

DO THEIR SAMBAS AND TURNS

THEY DON’T CARE HOW HE CHURNS

WE’RE THE SAME INSIDE

FRUIT IS FRUIT INSIDE

WE ALL ROT INSIDE,

KEEP IT OUT OF SIGHT

IT’S TRUE!

 

Odette

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

 

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

Madeleine

ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT

I THREW IT UP,

ALL RIGHT?

I REALLY CAN’T GO ON

 

I CAN’T GO ON

WITH THIS

I HAVE TO GO

FOR PITY’S SAKE

SAINT JUDE

AND SAINT JEROME

BY ALL THAT’S RIGHTEOUS IN

THIS WORLD I’M LIVING IN

I REALLY HAVE

TO GO

 

OH MY SAINT GENOVIEVE

AS LONG AS I CAN BREATHE

I KNOW I CAN’T GO ON

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

Elvira

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

 

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

 

The Dead Man

I’M DEAD

I’M SCREWED

NO ONE LEAVES ME ALONE!

 

NO REST

NO JOY

ANNOYING BITCHES TOO!

 

WHY DON’T

YOU GO

AND SCREW

 

YOUR MOMS

AND POPS

PLUS TWO?

 

CAN YOU SHOW ME THE WAY

TO THE NEAREST CAFÉ

HELL’S A GREAT PLACE TO STAY

 

Dance Around the Dead Man
“Dance Around the Dead Man”
The Dead Man

THAN TO BE HERE

WITH THESE FOOLS

I BET

 

 

 

PURGATORY’S BETTER

THAN THIS

PLACE

 

 

I SWEAR THAT

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS PLACE,

I SWEAR

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

Madeleine

OH, I CAN’T, I CAN’T

I WON’T GO ON

EVEN HELL IS BETTER

THAN THIS PLACE

 

 

WHAT A CURSE!

OH WHAT A MESS!

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS

 

I JUST

CAN’T GO ON,

NO MORE, NO MORE

MY GOD

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

Odette & Elvira

THAN TO BE HERE

WITH THESE FOOLS

I BET

 

 

PURGATORY’S BETTER

THAN THIS

PLACE

 

 

I SWEAR THAT

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS PLACE,

 

I SWEAR

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

 

  1. “THE HUNTER’S PLEA” (Hunter)

FLEE FOR YOUR VERY LIFE

MY POOR YOUNG PRINCESS

FLEE TO THE WOODS

NEVER COME BACK

 

  1. “WHEN A WOMAN WANTS” (Carmen, Rosa, Amelia)

Carmen

WHEN A WOMAN WANTS

A MAN OF HER VERY OWN

SHE BECOMES THE IMAGE OF A SIREN

SHE HOLDS IN HER HAND

AN APPLE FOR HIM TO EAT

A SIMPLE ACT WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES

 

AND WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN LOW

HE’LL TAKE A BITE AND THEN SHOW

HE IS IN HER ARMS WHEN HE HOLDS ON TO YOUR ROBE

 

AND WHEN YOU EXCHANGE A KISS IN HER PLACE

YOU WILL REMIND HIM WHEN HE LAYS BESIDE YOU

IT’S HER HAND THAT HE IS HOLDING

IT’S HER BACK THAT HE’S BEEN SCRATCHING

EVEN THOUGH YOUR BLOOD IS FLOWING

 

Rosa

TAKE THIS WOMAN FAR

AWAY FROM MY LITTLE GIRL

MAKE HER FIND HER FATE SO FAR FROM HERE

TAKE THIS WOMAN NOW

WITH ALL OF HER CARES AND FEARS

TO A PLACE THAT’S NOT SO VERY NEAR

 

AND MAY SHE FIND HER RELIEF

IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND

ON THE SIDEWALK, IN A SHELTER,

WHERE SHE LAYS DOWN

 

AND WHEN SHE AWAKES, AWAY FROM THIS PLACE,

MAKE HER AWARE OF HER SURROUNDINGS

SO PRINCE CHARMING SEES WHERE SHE’S BEEN SLEEPING

SHE WHO TRIED TO GET INSIDE HIM

MAY HER HAND BE ALL HE’S SEEKING

 

Amelia

FOR ME

 

Carmen

YOU’RE THE ONE WHO PUCKERS

BUT HER LIPS ARE THOSE HE’S KISSING FREELY

 

Amelia

FOR ME

 

Rosa

LET HER FORCE HERSELF ON OTHERS

ON THE STREET OR WHERE SHE’S KNEELING

 

Carmen and Rosa

YOU’RE THE ONE THAT HE IS HOLDING

BUT IT’S HER THAT HE’S BEEN FEELING

 

Amelia

FOR ME!

 

  1. “HERCULANO’S LULLABY” (Herculano)

SLEEP MY LITTLE BABE

YOUR DADDY CAME

 

SLEEP MY LITTLE DOVE

YOUR MOMMY’S GONE

 

Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa)
Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa)
  1. “HEIGH-HO” (Clara, Seven Young Men)

ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN DWARFS!

HEIGH-HO

HEIGH-HO AND NOW WE’RE GOING HOME

AND NOW WE’RE GOING HOME

 

12.   “CARD DECK” (Amelia, Carmen)

Amelia

THE TOOTH OF A CAT

AND THE TAIL OF A RAT

AND THE WING OF AN OWL

STIR THEM ALL TOGETHER

 

Carmen

TOGETHER!

 

Amelia

THE TOOTH AND THE TAIL

AND THE SHELL OF A SNAIL

WITH A BUCKET AND PAIL

YOU MIX THEM ALL AT ONCE

 

Carmen

ALL AT ONCE!

 

Amelia

BOIL THEM ALL IN A POT

LIKE A SOUP IN A SHOP

IN A KETTLE SO BLACK

THEY’LL BE COMPLETELY MELTED

 

Carmen

MELTED!

 

Amelia

FILL THE TOP OF THE POT

THE MOST POWERFUL POT

YOU CAN FIND IN YOUR SHOP

BRING THEM ALL TO A BOIL

 

Carmen

ALL TO A BOIL!

 

CARD DECK

DEAREST OF CARD DECKS

TAROTS, SHOW ME THE WAY

SEEK, AND YOU SHALL FIND

COME, MAKE ME ALL POWERFUL

 

Amelia

THE TIME OF NO TIME

THE HOUR’S SO FINE

WHEN THE MOON’S GETTING READY TO SHINE

GATHER ‘ROUND THEM CLOSER

 

Carmen

CLOSER!

 

Amelia

THE DAY IS A SAD ONE

A DAY WITHOUT SUN

WE TAKE UP OUR SONG

THEN IT’S OVER AND DONE

 

Carmen

OVER AND DONE!

 

Amelia

THEN YOU WISH FOR A WISH

AND YOUR WISH WILL COME TRUE

IF IT’S ALL THAT YOU DO

A HUNDRED TIMES OVER

 

Carmen

A HUNDRED TIMES OVER!

 

Amelia

YOU VOW AND YOU SWEAR

AND IT ALL COMES YOUR WAY

‘TILL YOU SAY WHAT YOU SAY

A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE

 

Carmen

A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE!

 

CARD DECK

OPEN MY EYELIDS

HELP ME, SHOW ME THE WAY

SPEAK, GRANT ME A SIGN

SPEAK, DON’T MAKE ME WAIT ANYMORE

 

Carmen

ASK, AND YOU’LL RECEIVE

 

COMMAND, IT SHALL BE DONE

 

PLEASE, SHOW ME THE WAY

MY ONLY TASK IS TO OBEY!

Amelia

ASK ME, AND I’LL RECEIVE

 

I SWEAR IT SHALL BE DONE

 

SAY IT’S NOT TOO LATE

MY ONLY TASK IS TO OBEY!

 

 

  1. “SCRUB THAT DIRTY STAIR” (Elvira, Madeleine, Amelia)

Elvira, Madeleine

SCRUB THAT DIRTY STAIR

TRA LA LA LA LA

CLEAN IT UP WITH SPIT AND POLISH

PRESS DOWN HARD, NOW TOSS THE RUBBISH

 

WAX THAT FILTHY FLOOR

TRA LA LA LA LA

MAKE IT SHINE AND DO IT SNAPPY

OR ODETTE WON’T BE SO HAPPY

 

WRETCHED WOMAN

USELESS VERMIN

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK

 

Amelia

YOUR FACE IS WITH ME HERE, MY DARLING

MY HEART IS IN YOUR HANDS

EACH PASSING HOUR

IT’S YOU THAT I SEEK

AND STILL I AWAIT,

MY TRUE LOVE

 

Elvira, Madeleine

GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES

HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE

IT’S JUST SHAMEFUL, SO DISGUSTING

SUCH A LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING

 

LOOK AT ALL THAT WASH

TRA LA LA LA LA

PICK THAT UP, IT’S NEVER-ENDING

HERE’S SOME MORE THAT NEED A MENDING

 

WRETCHED WOMAN

USELESS VERMIN

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK

 

Madeleine

HEAVY WOMAN

 

Elvira

BEAST OF BURDEN

 

Both

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK!!!

 

7 Curses, 7 Wishes
“7 Curses, 7 Wishes”
  1. “SEVEN CURSES” (Madeleine, Elvira, Carmen, Bianca, Seven Young Men)

BITE A PLUM PIT

CHEW A FISHBONE

FILL THOSE VEINS UP NOW

SPITTEL CHOKING

SPIRITS POKING

DRINK THAT POTION NOW

 

MALEDICTION

MALEFACTION

SUPERSTITION NOW

SPELL ALL-BINDING

STUPEFYING

BLINDLY CURSING SOW

 

TOXIC FOAM

ROUNDABOUT

OVERLOAD

CRY AND SHOUT

 

WRINKLES SPREADING

DISRESPECTING

EARTH IS QUAKING

SKIN IS SHEDDING

 

MILK TURNS SOUR

NOW’S THE HOUR

SPILL THAT BUTTER

DYING MOTHER

 

STIR THE CAULDRON

HEAT THE OVEN

HANDS IN FIRE NOW

IN THE GARDEN

BEASTS OF BURDEN

IN THE CUPBOARD NOW

 

MOLDY STORAGE

TRY THAT PORRIDGE

PLUCK A PULLET NOW

IN YOUR BEDROOM

ALL IS BEDLAM

WASH THOSE EYEBALLS,

WHERE AND HOW?

 

TRIM YOUR BODY

CUT TO RIBBONS

FEED YOUR PONY

APES AND GIBBONS

 

BORE A HOLE IN

ROOF AND CEILING

MAKE A HOME FOR

LICE AND WOMEN

 

SWEAR A CURSE AND

KILL YOUR FATHER

SHOW THE WEAPON

THEN AIM HIGHER

 

SEVEN CURSES

SEVEN WISHES

TAKE THEM BACK

THEN DO THE DISHES

 

 

  1. “THE LIGHT OF DAY” (Carmen)

THE LIGHT OF DAY

IS THERE, WAITING FOR YOU

THE MORNING GLOW,

THE SIDEWALK’S JUST FOR YOU

 

AND THERE’S

A SEA OUT THERE

WITH SEASHELLS

AND SAND OUT THERE

 

ALL OF RIO AWARE

A RED CARPET TO SHARE

CITY LIFE AT YOUR FEET

WAITING, HOPING THERE

AT YOUR BECK AND CALL

AT YOUR FEET!

 

Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello) & Bianca (Alessandra Verney)
Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello) & Bianca (Alessandra Verney)

 

  1. “IF THIS PATHWAY” (Bianca, Herculano)

Bianca

IF THIS PATHWAY

COULD UNLOCK MY HEART

I WOULD PAVE IT

WITH THE GEMS FROM MY PART

STONES, MOST PRECIOUS STONES THAT I HAVE LAID

FOR MY ESCAPE

 

Bianca

FROM THE SILENCE

WHERE HE LOCKED ME IN

FROM THE FENCES

WHERE HE KEPT ME BOUND

FROM THE DOORWAY

WHERE HE FORCED ME DOWN

EVERY DAY AND NIGHT

 

THIS IS MY HELLHOLE

 

THIS IS MY PENANCE

 

I WANT MORE

I NEED SO MUCH MORE…

 

IT’S SO COLD INSIDE ME

 

SO EMPTY INSIDE ME

 

A TIGER INSIDE ME

 

AND NOW I MUST LEAVE YOU

FOR US

FOR US

 

IF THIS PATHWAY

COULD UNLOCK MY HEART

I WOULD PAVE IT

WITH THE GEMS FROM MY PART

STONES, MOST PRECIOUS STONES

THAT I HAVE LAID

FOR MY ESCAPE

 

THERE ANCHORS MY VESSEL

 

THERE LIES A NEW FUTURE

 

I WANT MORE

I NEED MORE

OH, SO MUCH MORE

 

OUTSIDE A SWEET WINTER

 

OUTSIDE ENDLESS SUMMERS

 

A SUNSHINE INSIDE ME

 

AND NOW, I MUST LEAVE YOU

FOR US

FOR US

 

PATHWAY

PLEASE UNLOCK MY HEART

 

IF THIS PATHWAY…

Herculano

ALL I HAVE IS YOURS

MY LOVE

MY LOVE

 

 

 

 

 

THIS IS OUR LOVENEST

 

THIS IS OUR DREAM HOUSE

 

STAY WITH ME HERE

WHERE IT’S OH, SO WARM

 

IT’S SO COLD OUTSIDE ME

 

SO UGLY OUTSIDE ME

 

A WOLF AT THE WINDOW

 

DO IT FOR ME

FOR US

FOR US

 

SAVE OUR LOVE TONIGHT

MY LOVE

MY LOVE

 

 

 

 

 

FAR FROM ANY STORM CLOUD

 

SAVE OUR LOVE TONIGHT

 

OUR LOVE

IS ALL

WE NEED

 

OUTSIDE THERE ARE OGRES

 

OUTSIDE STRIFE ETERNAL

 

OUTSIDE AN INFERNO

 

DO IT FOR ME

FOR US

FOR US

 

PATHWAY

DON’T TEAR OUR LOVE APART

 

IF THIS PATHWAY…

 

 

  1. “BEFORE I FORGET” (Amelia, Alvaro)

Amelia

BEFORE I FORGET MYSELF IN YOU, STAY

BEFORE I REMEMBER WHAT I DO, STAY

COME, STAY WITH ME HERE

DON’T LEAVE ME, I FEAR

 

BEFORE MY TEMPTATION TO SAY YES, STAY

BEFORE CONTEMPLATION TELLS ME LESS, STAY

STAY, I’VE BEEN AWAY

DON’T LEAD ME ASTRAY

 

STAY, TIME GOES BY FASTEST WHEN WE SAY:

STAY!

 

Alvaro

CLOCKS WITH ALL THEIR HANDS WILL STOP AND SAY: STAY

SHINGLES ON THE CEILING FALL AND SAY: STAY

SAY I FOUND YOU HERE

PRAY, NO ONE COMES NEAR

ALL THAT IS FORGOTTEN’S IN THE PAST

STAY

 

Both

FOREVER,

AND ALWAYS

TOGETHER,

STAY WITH ME

 

Amelia

STAY, MY NIGHTS ARE FADING OH SO FAST, STAY

 

Both

STAY, THE DOORS ARE CLOSING TO THE PAST, STAY

 

STAY, BEFORE THE SPRING

STAY, BEFORE THE THAW

BEFORE WE FORGET HOW MUCH WE SAY:

STAY

 

FOREVER

AND ALWAYS

 

Alvaro

LONGING

 

Amelia

SWEAR IT

 

Both

STAY!

 

Full Cast in Finale to Act 1
Full Cast in the Finale to Act One
  1. FINALE: “TIME AND AGAIN” (Entire Cast)

Madeleine, Elvira, Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

NIGHTTIME HAS COME

 

Seven Young Men

THE PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME!

 

Elvira

HEY THERE!

WHAT’S IT TODAY?

 

Madeleine

WHO WILL CARESS ME?

 

Madeleine, Elvira, Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

WE’RE ALL THE SAME

 

Seven Young Men

THE STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME, OH STAY

 

Elvira

MAKE OF ME

YOUR HEART’S DESIRE OR SOMETHING MORE

 

Madeleine

WITH ME THE LIGHTS ARE BURNING BRIGHTER

 

Elvira

WITH ME THE FLAMES STAY LOW

 

Both

NEAR TO YOUR CHAMBER

A CUP ON THE FLOOR

AND STILL I AWAIT

 

All

MY TRUE LOVE

 

Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

NIGHTTIME HAS COME

 

Bianca

THE PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY…

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME!

 

Elvira

ANYONE

OR NO ONE

 

Madeleine

WHO WILL CARESS ME?

 

Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

WE’RE ALL THE SAME

THE STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY…

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME, OH STAY

 

Elvira

MAKE OF ME

YOUR CRUEL HEAVEN OR YOUR HELL!

 

Elvira, Madeleine, Seven Young Men

AT NIGHT MY PRINCE IS WAITING FOR ME

HIS FATE IS IN MY HANDS

 

Carmen, Odette, Rosa

INSIDE OUR SOULS WHERE

IT’S WARM AND IT’S COLD

 

All

AND STILL I AWAIT

MY TRUE LOVE

 

BLACKOUT

Curtain

End of Act One

 

(To be continued…) 

Copyright © 2015 by Josmar F. Lopes

 

Opera Goes to Hollywood, the Sequel — Short Takes, Outtakes, and Out-and-Out Mistakes

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Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy in New Moon
Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy in New Moon

A year or two back, I published a series of articles devoted to the incongruities of opera stars appearing or being featured in Hollywood movies (yes, you heard that right — even the silent variety), and of Hollywood movies employing said opera stars.

I later realized, to my dismay, that a cluster of mini-pieces I had prepared on the subject of opera and moviedom never quite made it to the “final cut.” Whether for reasons of space, or most likely the failure of these pieces to fit into any specific group or category that I had been thinking about, I never got around to a definitive solution for their use. In all probability, they wound up on the proverbial cutting-room floor.

Nevertheless, I’d like to make amends and take this opportunity to rectify my oversight by offering these “short takes, outtakes, and out-and-out mistakes” as a consolation to movie buffs and opera lovers starved for the offbeat and out-of-the-way in musical film fare.

So, as they say in showbiz: “Here goes nothing!”

Yes, But Were They Opera Singers?

A subsection of the class of performers who sang and acted their way to stardom in a multiplicity of motion pictures involves all those Deanna Durbin, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy vehicles so beloved of fans of the Depression years. Coming as they did before and during the conflagration known as World War II, we can look back on these ventures with more than a clear-eyed appreciation for their relative merits and deficiencies.

Let’s get the show on the road, then, with the young and gifted Deanna Durbin. Born Edna Mae Durbin on December 4, 1921, to British émigré parents in Winnipeg, Manitoba (bet you didn’t know she was Canadian, ay?), Deanna’s family relocated to Southern California, i.e., the Los Angeles area, when she was two years old due to her father’s health.

Originally scheduled to appear in a planned 1935 production opposite the Austrian contralto Ernestine Schumann-Heink — it was going to be another of those Hollywood “biopics,” this one of the grande dame herself, in which Durbin was supposed to play Schumann-Heink as a child — the project was scrapped due to the singer’s untimely passing. That alone would turn most aspirants off. Instead, the rechristened Deanna co-starred a year later in an MGM short, Every Sunday, alongside another potential discovery, the plucky thirteen-year-old Judy Garland.

As ill luck would have it, Garland was in and Durbin was out. It sounds suspiciously like one of those producer clichés (of the “The kid stays in the picture” variety). But the scuttlebutt around Tinsel Town was that Louis B. Mayer, the titular lord of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s realm, took one look at Every Sunday and that very day made his fateful decision: “Get rid of the fat one,” he declared. His subordinates misunderstood Mayer’s pronouncement and promptly canned Ms. Durbin, when in fact he meant to fire the pudgy Ms. Judy. Details, details!

Deanna Durbin
Deanna Durbin

That being the case, the production team at Universal, headed by Joe Pasternak (who later migrated to MGM) and Henry Koster, snapped up the budding starlet and signed Durbin to make her feature debut in Three Smart Girls (1936), a smart move on their part. Deanna’s role was that of a smart cookie, sharing screen time with Nan Grey and Barbra Read, the other brains of the outfit.

This was soon followed by the hugely successful One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), wherein the guileless Deanna played second fiddle, in a manner of speaking, to the real star of the show: the world renowned, long-haired music-maker, maestro Leopold Stokowski. This was several years before “Stokie” had bowed to (in animated-silhouette form, I might add) and shook the celluloid hands of the cartoonish Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney’s cult classic, Fantasia.

The basic plot of One Hundred Men and a Girl involved an aspiring vocalist (Deanna) trying to convince the skeptical conductor to hire her unemployed father and his ragtag group of equally jobless musicians (all of them victims of a depressed economy) to play in an ad hoc symphony — presided over by Leopold himself. It’s a charming period piece, a harmless bit of Depression-era diversion, with the thoroughly enchanting Durbin at her uncomplicated best.

Her singing voice, while sounding slight and reedy on top (in this author’s opinion, not very distinctive even at this early stage in her career), manages to hit all the right notes in a pleasant if passable reading of the “Alleluia” section from Mozart’s concert aria, Exsultate Jubilate, along with other characteristic pieces from the period. Durbin is ably seconded by a typical 1930s cast of characters, including the dapper Adolphe Menjou as her ne’er-do-well dad, bullfrog-throated radio-station owner Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady as his wife, blustering Billy Gilbert as a garage owner, Frank Jenks as a cab driver (a role he repeated in many a picture), and the resourceful Mischa Auer as a flute player.

Durbin with Leopold Stokowski in One Hundred Men and a Girl
Durbin with Leopold Stokowski in One Hundred Men and a Girl

Mad About Music (1938) was the next entry in the Durbin canon, followed by such items as That Certain Age, Nice Girl?, It Started with Eve, and numerous others. Durbin’s films were notable primarily for their unabashed innocence and easy-to-take charm, their A-list casting of such top-drawer talents as Charles Laughton, Robert Cummings, Franchot Tone, and Robert Stack, and near-top of the line production values — although to be perfectly honest they were a few steps below the best that rival studio MGM had to offer.

Still, it was that very ordinariness, a quality that Durbin so attractively exuded in many of her screen portrayals that tugged at people’s hearts. Later in 1938, she shared a special Academy Award with fellow child star Mickey Rooney for (and I quote) “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth … and by setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

Notwithstanding her appeal as a non-threatening, girl-next-door type, in 1948 Ms. Durbin decided to retire from the screen at the advanced age of 27. By then, Deanna had flowered into a fully matured and, it must be noted, boldly voluptuous figure. Two films from 1944, the first, Christmas Holiday, in which she portrayed a New Orleans hooker of all things, and the other, Can’t Help Singing, a Technicolor musical Western that showed her in a bathtub surrounded by frothy bubbles, left little to the imagination and pretty much burst her bubble of wholesomeness for all time.

Relocating to Paris, Deanna married (for the third time, if you’re keeping track) a Frenchman by the name of Charles Henri David. She was rarely seen or heard from until her death, at 91, in April 2013. Durbin left behind a series of lightweight pictures that, while totally ingenuous in their makeup and design, held classical music in high regard.

Although popular with the middlebrow crowd, Deanna accepted the fact that she attracted mostly older audiences, her reasoning being that she “represented the ideal daughter millions of fathers and mothers wished they had.” You may take a bow for that statement, dearie.

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!

Eddy & MacDonald in Naughty Marietta
Eddy & MacDonald in Naughty Marietta

British-born movie critic and irascible raconteur, David Thomson, had a lot to say about our next pair of candidates for screen stardom: “It is possible that, without so accomplished a soprano voice, Jeanette MacDonald would now be more highly regarded as a comedienne. Without a song, she would not have had to keep company with the egregious Nelson Eddy.” Ouch, that hurt!

What Mr. Thomson may not have considered was that Ms. MacDonald’s career-defining affiliation with the robust-toned Mr. Eddy was exactly what the war-weary American public wanted and kept clamoring for during their unbroken string of hits between the years 1935 and 1942.

After all, what was Laurel without Hardy, Abbott without Costello? And, righty put, what was Jeanette MacDonald without her Nelson Eddy? Ah, but there’s the rub! For you see, both stars, whether separately or as a melodious unit, had forged onscreen personalities so tailored to their own personas that, without regard to their individual talents, would forever be associated in people’s mind with the most winning (and, nowadays, the campiest) movie musicals in film history.

Born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1903 (or 1901, depending on your source), Jeanette Anna MacDonald was the youngest of three girls, one of whom was the actress Marie Blake, a.k.a. Blossom Rock, best known to TV addicts as Grandmama on The Addams Family series. Blessed with a lyrically-trained voice and above-average acting and dancing skills, young Jeanette came to New York in 1919, later making headway on the Great White Way in a variety of shows, revues and light operas from 1920 onward.

Discovered, after a fashion, by silent screen veteran Richard Dix and European film director Ernst Lubitsch, MacDonald burst onto the scene in a series of lushly filmed, suave and sophisticated musical comedies for Paramount Pictures, co-starring the dashingly urbane French sensation, Maurice Chevalier. They made four movies together, the first of which, The Love Parade in 1929, is an excellent example of what came to be known as the “Lubitsch touch.” Indeed, MacDonald and Maurice made beautiful music together (while he made goo-goo eyes at his partner), but their subsequent output failed to ignite the spark that the fast-moving Love Parade had started.

Having had better luck with The Vagabond King (1930), which highlighted the rich baritone rumblings of the strikingly handsome British subject, Dennis King (Fra Diavolo or The Devil’s Brother), MacDonald jumped ship for other studios — among them United Artists and Fox Film Corporation — for a round of musical parfaits that exploited the artist’s growing popularity on the big screen. Several classics resulted, including another coupling with Monsieur Chevalier in One Hour with You and Love Me Tonight (both in 1932), along with a few others.

All this activity caught the attention of our old friend, Louis B. Mayer, who had been trying to sign up the busy singer-actress for a goodly number of years. Mayer’s fortunes were about to change, however, when after two unsuccessful efforts at MGM, including a sound remake of The Merry Widow (1934), directed by Lubitsch and featuring the debonair Chevalier again, the studio hit pay-dirt when Jeanette MacDonald was eventually paired with newcomer Nelson Eddy in the film version of Victor Herbert’s operetta, Naughty Marietta.

A classically trained singer with an easy top and sturdy build, Eddy hailed from Providence, Rhode Island. Two years older than MacDonald, he was no less talented than his future working partner. After the early divorce of his parents, Eddy went to live in Philadelphia, Jeanette’s old hometown, where he began his vocal studies. Employed at a variety of jobs (among them a clerk and a newspaper reporter), young Nelson entered and won several voice competitions, all of which landed him recurring opportunities at the Philadelphia Civic Opera.

By the time he and MacDonald had joined together in song, Eddy had made numerous concert and opera appearances with the likes of maestro Stokowski, sopranos Helen Jepson and Elizabeth Rethberg, conductor Fritz Reiner, tenor Giovanni Martinelli, bass Ezio Pinza, and composer Ottorino Respighi. There was even mention of his name joining the illustrious ranks of other American baritones of the time, i.e., Lawrence Tibbett (himself a movie star), John Charles Thomas, and Richard Bonelli. Hey, Figaro!

With that background, was it any wonder that MGM had nothing but the greatest of difficulties in placing the tall, blond-haired and boyish-looking Eddy in non-singing parts? In total, Eddy and MacDonald appeared in eight feature films, many of them directed by either W.S . Van Dyke or Robert Z. Leonard or both, beginning with Naughty Marietta and followed by Rose Marie (1936), Maytime (1937), The Girl of the Golden West (1938) based on David Belasco’s play, Sweethearts (1938), New Moon (1940), Bitter Sweet (1940), and culminating with I Married an Angel in 1942.

MacDonald with the "King," Clark Gable, in San Francisco
MacDonald with the “King,” Clark Gable, in San Francisco

Both artists left MGM shortly thereafter. On their own, they had mixed results, as well as mixed reviews from audiences and critics alike; basically it was hit or miss. By herself, Jeanette MacDonald went on to star in several pictures, the most prominent being San Francisco (1936) with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy (where Jeanette warbled the Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust), The Firefly with Allan Jones (1937), Broadway Serenade (1939) with Lew Ayres, Smilin’ Through (1941) with Brian Aherne and her husband Gene Raymond, Cairo (1942) with Robert Young and Ethel Waters, and Three Darling Daughters (1948) with Jane Powell and José Iturbi. Her final film, The Sun Comes Up (1949), presented audiences with her strangest partner yet: the dog Lassie!

With other leading ladies, Nelson Eddy received top billing in Rosalie (1937) with Eleanor Powell, Let Freedom Ring (1939) with Virginia Bruce, Balalaika (1939) with Ilona Massey, The Chocolate Soldier (1941) with Risë Stevens, and Northwest Outpost (1947), again with Massey. He also starred in Universal’s The Phantom of the Opera (1943) with Susanna Foster and Claude Rains, Knickerbocker Holiday (1944) with Charles Coburn, and as an opera-singing cartoon whale in Disney’s Make Mine Music (1946).

There were rumors of a tempestuous affair between Mr. Eddy and Ms. MacDonald, both on and off the screen. It was even bandied about that Nelson had asked Jeanette to marry him on more than one occasion, but each time she turned him down flat. Were they longtime lovers, or just close friends? Who knows?

What we do know is that both MacDonald and Eddy were born in the same month of June, almost two years apart. She died in 1965, while he passed on in 1967 — a little over two years later. Must be another of those sweet mysteries of life they so often sang about.

The Golden Girls

It’s been said that all of Louis B. Mayer’s taste was in his mouth. Whether this observation was indeed true or not, Mayer could still boast of having had under contract three of MGM’s most conspicuous sirens: sopranos Ann Blyth, Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell. All three were known as the Metro Girls, for better or worse — the jewels in the studio’s musical crown in its postwar heyday.

The main reason for their popularity, besides good looks and more than decent acting chops, was their voices — both speaking AND singing voices, to be exact. You can read all about these fabulous artists in Brian Kellow’s fact-filled essay, “The Lost Metro Girls,” in the August 2002 issue of Opera News. For our purposes, let’s say that all three ladies had been bitten by the theater bug at an early age, with opera rarely or tangentially entering into the picture.

Ann Marie Blyth, who grew up in New York City, took part in the children’s chorus at the budding San Carlo Opera Company. One might even have gotten wind of her performances, back in the day, in such perennial favorites as Puccini’s La Bohème and Bizet’s Carmen, if only as part of the onstage crowd. Blyth also flexed her stage muscles in the Broadway production of Watch on the Rhine with Paul Lukas.

Ann Blyth
Ann Blyth

On tour with the play in L.A., Blyth was noticed by a talent scout and promptly hired by Universal Pictures. But it was with MGM that she came into her own in straight acting parts, the most memorable of which, as Joan Crawford’s spoiled brat of a daughter in Mildred Pierce (1945), earned her an Academy Award nomination. Within a few years, she graduated from playing an offspring to being the cinematic wife of Enrico Caruso, as well as the mother of his child.

Notwithstanding her brief take on the number, “The Loveliest Night of the Year,” from the Mario Lanza vehicle The Great Caruso (1951), viewers got to hear Blyth’s beautiful singing voice in a series of elaborately produced operettas, beginning with remakes of Rose Marie and The Student Prince (all from 1954), and the ersatz Vincente Minnelli-directed Kismet, a poorly received box-office dud.

Unfortunately, Blyth’s singing voice was dubbed by pop star Gogi Grant in her next musical outing, the soap-opera filming of The Helen Morgan Story from 1957, about the alcoholic torch singer’s troubled life. Blyth wisely retired from the screen later that same year. As you can see, opera hardly fit into the picture at all with someone whose “early career” began on the stage.

Such was not the case with Metro’s other golden girl, Zelma Kathryn Grayson. A native of Winston-Salem, Grayson’s family moved to St. Louis, where she began serious vocal studies, even learning the part of Lucia di Lammermoor. Another of the many Hollywood transplants, the young songbird continued studying, right up until the moment Louis Mayer spotted her at a concert and, in true “I’ll show ‘em who’s boss” fashion, signed her to a film contract.

Claiming never to have fought with the legendary old haggler, Grayson was deprived of a Metropolitan Opera debut as Lucia by the ever-watchful Mr. Mayer. In Kellow’s article, L.B. is quoted as saying, “If [Grayson] is known as an opera star, she’ll have a short career. If she is a motion picture star, she’ll be a star forever.” This was the polar opposite of Met Opera General Manager Rudolf Bing’s attitude toward his own stable of stars (for example, baritone Robert Merrill) and their moonlighting antics as Hollywood actors.

Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me, Kate
Kathryn Grayson in Kiss Me, Kate

For years, Grayson was left waiting in the wings. She eventually came out for her bow in the late 1940s in the first two Mario Lanza pictures, That Midnight Kiss from 1949 and The Toast of New Orleans in 1950. Their legendary tussles filled the gossip columns with scathing accounts of off-screen battles and prima donna-like behavior (on Mario’s part, not Grayson’s). After The Great Caruso, Mr. Lanza’s Metro star began to wane; Ms. Grayson’s, however, was slowly but surely on the rise. She starred opposite Howard Keel in the Technicolor remake of Show Boat which, through no fault of her own, many critics (myself included) felt was inferior to the 1936 version with Irene Dunne and Allan Jones.

Still, Grayson and Keel made a darn good team, and gave fans their money’s worth in two return engagements, first with Lovely to Look At (1952), followed by the best of their three-picture deal together, the movie version of Cole Porter’s musical Kiss Me, Kate (1953). Grayson’s man-hating harpy Katherine, coupled with her temperamental comportment as Lilli, was one of the real-life Kathryn’s finest screen portrayals, a pouty, tantrum-prone shrew that people wrongly associated with the actress herself.

Not so, for once her movie career was over Grayson continued to pursue her first love — i.e., singing on the stage — appearing in touring companies of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot, Verdi’s La Traviata, Donizetti’s Lucia, and Puccini’s La Bohème and Madama Butterfly, as well as going the nightclub route all over the continental United States.

Despite her fame in filmdom, and contrary to Louis B. Mayer’s prediction, Kathryn Grayson became both an opera star AND a movie star, forever. Her voice was finally silenced on February 17, 2010, at age 88.

Keep on Smiling

Jane Powell
Jane Powell

The last of the highly-touted Metro Girls, bubbly Jane Powell, was the least inclined of the threesome toward a career on the operatic stage. The possessor of a sparkling personality and a winning 100-watt smile, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Jane distinguished herself through many onscreen appearances, all the while weathering numerous vocal crises for almost the entire length of her stint in La-La-Land.

As far as we could tell, Ms. Powell, a Portland, Oregon native, never sang or starred in opera. Yet, her sharply focused soprano would be heard in such varied assignments as A Date with Judy (1948) and Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), both with Carmen Miranda, Royal Wedding (1952) with singer-dancer Fred Astaire, Three Sailors and a Girl (1953) with Gordon MacRae, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) with the omnipresent Howard Keel, and Hit the Deck (1955) with crooner Tony Martin.

She also made it a point to appear in musical theater. A partial listing of her activities includes such classic shows as Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, Carousel, My Fair Lady, and Brigadoon. But Powell, who was born Suzanne Lorraine Burce, earned the first of her positive notices on the air, prophetically on the radio program Stars of Tomorrow. She entered the cinema at the tender age of fifteen, playing a variation on her own vivacious identity as a perky, sincere, and overly enthusiastic ingénue with the cherubic face and a never-say-die outlook on life.

Married five times, the last (and still current) of which is to former child actor Dickie Moore, Powell was put under contract to MGM. Ironically, though, her movie debut occurred over at Universal, Deanna Durbin’s home studio, in the 1944 feature Song of the Open Road. How’s that for a prescient title? From then on, it was work, work, and more work for the industrious Ms. Jane, who was anything but plain in her “forever young” screen traversals.

Louis B. Mayer had finally found a replacement for Deanna Durbin, who he always felt had slipped through his studio’s fingers. However, by the mid-1950s movie musicals were on their downward slide. As far as her future film endeavors went, Powell saw the handwriting on the wall clearly enough. She left the pomp and vanity of Tinsel Town for the stage, making a second go at a theater career: she was ideally cast, in 1973, as Debbie Reynold’s replacement in the Broadway hit Irene.

Still experiencing trouble with her vocals, Ms. Powell soon called it a night. She is fondly remembered by her legions of fans as that never-aging, eternally jovial youth who lit up many a movie musical with her lyrical output and sun-drenched optimism.

Recommended Reading:

  • Citron, Marcia. Opera on Screen, Yale University Press, New York, 2000.
  • Dizikes, John. Opera in America: A Cultural History, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1993.
  • Fawkes, Richard. Opera on Film, Duckworth Publishers, Great Britain, 2002.
  • Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia, HarperPerennial, A HarperCollins Book, New York, 1994.
  • Kellow, Brian. “The Lost Metro Girls,” The Crossover Variations — Opera, Broadway and the Movies, Opera News Magazine, Volume 67, Number 2, August 2002.
  • Mackay, Harper. “The History of Hollywood’s Secret Voices,” Opera News Magazine, October 1994.
  • Midgette, Anne. “Verdi On-Screen: A Century’s Operatic Riches,” The New York Times, January 25, 2002.
  • Myers, Eric. “Universal Appeal, The Crossover Variations — Opera, Broadway and the Movies,” Opera News Magazine, Volume 67, Number 2, August 2002.
  • Scherer, Barrymore Laurence. “The Flickering Light: Der Rosenkavalier and Other Silent Opera Films,” Opera News Magazine, December 11, 1993.
  • Schroeder, David. Cinema’s Illusions, Opera’s Allure, Continuum Books, New York, 2002.
  • Wlaschin, Ken. “Glory of Opera Films That Hit the Right Notes,” The Los Angeles Times, November 15, 2000.
  • Wlaschin, Ken. Opera on Screen: A Guide to 100 Years of Films and Videos, Beachwood Publishers, 1997.

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes

Who’s Afraid of Opera? — Composers and Their Silly Opera Plots (Part Two): Once More, With Feeling

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“Oh, Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou, Romeo?”

Piotr Beczala as Romeo, and Nino Machaidze as Juliette (Photo: Robbie Jack)
Piotr Beczala as Romeo, and Nino Machaidze as Juliette (Photo: Robbie Jack)

One of the more diverting aspects of “silly opera plots” is how certain stories get constantly recycled, over and over and over again. We’ve already touched upon one of them, i.e., that of the musician Orpheus, in which composers from the dawn of opera have attempted to remake his fable for each succeeding generation of theatergoers.

The same can be said for the plays of William Shakespeare, in particular one featuring sweet Juliet and her dashing beau, Romeo. Some of the better-known examples of operas based on the Bard of Avon’s most romantic work include Frenchman Charles Gounod’s five-act Roméo et Juliette; an aborted one by the Russian-born Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, which was turned into a concert-hall favorite, the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture; and a fabulous choral/symphonic showpiece, also titled Roméo et Juliette, by that French firebrand Hector Berlioz.

In addition to the ones noted above, there are two other versions, in Italian, based not on Shakespeare but on the original source material from the early Renaissance period: the first, called The Capulets and the Montagues, was written by bel canto specialist Vincenzo Bellini; the second, going by the name of Giulietta e Romeo, was the work of a twentieth century composer, Riccardo Zandonai, who seemed to have a thing for medieval subject matter: his operatic adaptation of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s Francesca da Rimini, for example, comes from an obscure passage found in Dante’s Inferno.

And speaking of the Inferno, what about all those Faust operas we’ve heard so much about? Do you know Faust? He’s that old doctor, alchemist, mathematician or what-have-you from medieval times who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil — Mephistopheles, in this situation. His story was purportedly based on an actual historical figure, immortalized in English poet Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and later, in the gigantic, two-part epic poem, Faust, by German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, both of which form the basis for various operatic versions.

Wouldn’t you know it, but there also happens to be a French Faust — two of them, to be precise: one by Monsieur Gounod, the same fellow who brought you Roméo et Juliette; and the other by — you guessed it — Monsieur Berlioz, which he named The Damnation of Faust. It was staged a few years ago at the Met to great acclaim.

Moving right along, there’s even an Italian Faust. If you’ve been following my blog with any regularity, you know that I’ve written extensively about this next opera. Only this time, its composer, Arrigo Boito, one of Verdi’s finest librettists, decided on the name Mefistofele for its multi-syllabic title; and last, but certainly not least, there’s also a German Faust, called appropriately enough Doktor Faust, by the musically eclectic Ferruccio Busoni. Note to readers: despite his Italian moniker, Busoni studied and settled in Germany. So for all intents and purposes, he’s usually considered a Germanic composer — go figure!

Now the way I see it, with practice comes perfection: sooner or later, ONE of these fine gentlemen is going to get the Faust story right. That also holds true for the tale of Juliet and her Romeo. My own personal favorite, from among the wealth of operatic inspirations that are out there, happens to be an American setting: West Side Story from 1957.

Maria (Natalie Wood) kisses Tony (Richard Beymer) for the fist time in West Side Story
Maria (Natalie Wood) kisses Tony (Richard Beymer) for the fist time in West Side Story

With a superb score by the great Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by the equally talented Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by ballet master Jerome Robbins, this modern street-gang rendition is possibly the most popular version yet.

We’re going to hear the first-act solo number, “Maria,” sung by Tony, our upper-Manhattan substitute for Romeo, with Maria sitting in for his fair Juliet. As you listen, keep in mind the work’s origins as a Broadway theater piece.

Let no one tell you otherwise: this magical moment fulfills all the requirements of an operatic air at its finest. It has warmth, beauty of tone, lyricism to spare, sweeping high-lying phrases, and a uniquely identifiable — and highly enjoyable — hit tune to please the masses. “Maria” is a special favorite of operatic singers, as we will hear in this lovely sequence by the late American tenor Jerry Hadley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_AArumG76U

Tenor Jerry Hadley
Tenor Jerry Hadley

In 1985, Bernstein himself recorded this wonderful work with legit opera singers José Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa as the star-crossed leads, along with mezzo Tatiana Troyanos, baritone Kurt Ollmann and contralto Marilyn Horne — all of them bringing a sense of seriousness and purpose to the venture that made one sit up and take notice at how near to perfection Bernstein and Sondheim had come to achieving the “operatic ideal” of blending music and drama with words and story.

Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law

No doubt, Leonard Bernstein was one of the more formidable musical figures of the mid- to late twentieth century. Going back a bit, we can say the same thing about Richard Wagner, one of the mid- to late nineteenth century’s most controversial and influential musical figures of his or anybody else’s time.

Described by record producer John Culshaw as “a man possessed” (and with good reason), Wagner single-handedly changed the face of opera from a mildly passive form of entertainment to a politically charged spectator sport of earth-shattering proportions.

Within a span of about 40+ years (from about 1840 to his death in 1883), the Dresden-born titan managed to spread his far-flung theories of a “total artwork” of the future (or Gesamtkunstwerk in German) to the four corners of the globe.

You could say that the great Greek dramatists of the past — especially Aeschylus — in addition to the influences of his predecessors Gluck, Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, Bellini and Giacomo Meyerbeer, all came together to find expression in one totally self-absorbed individual, one Herr Wagner.

The most representative of his body of work, which he termed “music dramas,” and the one that best illustrates our topic of “silly opera plots,” is his mighty epic The Ring of the Nibelung. Musicians, scholars, producers, fans and singers alike have spent a lifetime (if not a fortune) studying these complex scores.

But none of them came close to reveling in their “hidden truths,” as it were, as the late singer-actress Anna Russell did, in her comedic synopsis of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, the operas that make up the four-part Ring of the Nibelung saga, as it is most commonly known to operaphiles.

Anna Russell -- singer, actor, comedian, raconteur
Anna Russell — singer, actor, comedian, raconteur

Ms. Russell, who was Canadian by birth, did to Wagner’s 16-hour opus what Gilbert and Sullivan had done to Verdi’s four-act Il Trovatore: she lampooned it to no end, taking the stuffiness out of its highfaluting, high-minded pretensions and bringing it down from the lofty heights of Valhalla to our own level of earthly silliness.

Anna Russell lived well into her 90’s before passing on in 2006. Fortuitously, in her absence we still have Ms. Russell’s lively text which we can read and enjoy to our heart’s content. Here is a reenactment of her classic analysis of The Ring of the Nibelung:

“Now, the first thing is that every person and event in the Ring cycle has what is grandly called a leitmotif. Now you don’t need to worry about that, it merely means a ‘signature tune.’ The scene opens in the River Rhine. IN IT! If it were in New York, it would be like the Hudson River. And swimming around there are the three Rhine Maidens… a sort of aquatic Andrews Sisters.

“The Rhine Maidens are looking after a lump of magic gold. And the magic of this gold consists of the fact that anybody who will renounce love and make a ring out of it will become Master of the Universe. This is the gimmick!

“Now up from underneath the river — as it might be, let’s say, the Holland Tunnel — comes a little dwarf called Alberich. Well, he’s an excessively unattractive fellow. He makes a pass at the Rhine Maidens, who think he’s perfectly dreadful, and so they’re not very nice to him. So he thinks, ‘I’m not going to get any love anyhow, so I may as well renounce it, and take this lump of gold, make the Ring, and become Master of the Universe.’

“Well, now, up here, as it might be on top of the Empire State Building, we find Wotan, the head god. And he’s a crashing bore, too. He and his wife, Mrs. Fricka Wotan, have had a castle built for them, called Valhalla, by a couple of giants named Fasolt and Fafner.

“Of course, the giants want to be paid for building this castle, and part of the giant-builders union scale consists of this magic ring that Alberich’s made. So Wotan goes all the way down from where he is to Alberich and takes the Ring away from him. Well, of course, Alberich is simply FURIOUS. So he puts a terrible curse on the Ring.

“But Wotan takes no notice. He takes the Ring up and gives it to Fasolt. Right away Fafner kills Fasolt to get the Ring himself. So Wotan knows that the curse is working. And this worries him, so he goes down to ground level to consult an old fortune-teller friend of his, Erda; she’s a green-faced torso that pops up out of the ground — at least we THINK she’s a torso, since that’s all anyone’s ever seen of her. And she says to Wotan, ‘Be careful, Wotan! Be careful!’ She then bears him eight daughters.

“These daughters are the Valkyries, headed by Brünnhilde… and they are the NOISIEST women. ‘Heiaha! Heiaha! Hojotoho! Hojotoho!’ Well, that’s the end of Part One.”

Met Opera "Ride of the Valkyries"
Met Opera “Ride of the Valkyries”

After that rendition, we just have to wrap this session up with a BANG, so put on your earmuffs, gang, and let’s give it up for the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” from Act Three of the opera Die Walküre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPcrqkViZKw

Wow! That was a BANG, all right! Everybody from Bugs Bunny, in the Warner Bros. cartoon “What’s Opera, Doc?” to director Francis Ford Coppola, in his Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now, has used this musical interlude as foreground and background music. It’s a surefire audience pleaser!

There’s a lot more to Wagner’s Ring cycle, I assure you. So let’s pick it up at our next session, shall we? Until then, do your homework and listen to a few choice selections from some of the other works in The Ring of the Nibelung.

End of Part Two

(To be continued…)

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes

‘Waste Land – The Musical’: ‘Ninety-Nine is Not a Hundred’ (Part Two)

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The conclusion to a proposed musical theater piece about the award-winning documentary ‘Waste Land’ (‘Lixo Extraordinário’)

Artist Vik Muniz
Artist Vik Muniz

In the first part of my tribute to the denizens of the Jardim Gramacho slum (see the following link: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/waste-land-the-musical-we-suffer-we-die-and-were-buried/), one of the catadores was hurt by an unfriendly encounter with a garbage truck and its contents. Meanwhile, the office was looted by drug thieves who made off with the monthly payroll.

Act II: Resolution

Number 12. “Rescue Attempt” – The garbage pickers pull Zumbie out from under the crumbling rubbish heap. “The truck’s gate fell on him,” yells Big Carl, one of the slum’s inhabitants, “but he’s going to be okay.” With a huge sigh of relief, the garbage pickers take the stricken catador de lixo to the hospital. “Over 20 people will donate blood,” Zumbie announces proudly. “I’m surrounded by good fr-fr-friends.” He’s well on his way toward mending, both physically and emotionally.

Number 13. “Vik’s Visit” – The famous artist, Vik Muniz, now comes to call on Jardim Gramacho with a unique proposal for the pickers. He wants to take their pictures – i.e., photographs of the workers, in all sorts of weird poses. As Vik explains it, he intends to recreate the classic paintings of old. The garbage pickers look at him in alarm and amazement. “What’s this all about?” they wonder openly.

Vik tries to clarify his idea, but they still don’t get it. “Pictures? Pictures of what?” they inquire in unison. “Pictures of garbage,” Vik replies, rather matter-of-factly. They are even more astonished at this alleged clarification. They still can’t believe their ears. “Who in their right mind would want to do that?” they declare. “I would,” says Vik. “It’s what I do for a living.” “And people say we’re crazy!” is their response. This leads to an extended discussion (via an ensemble passage) where everyone chimes in with their own ideas about the project.

Eventually, the issues are resolved and the garbage pickers’ reluctance begins to fade. Vik is making headway in his appeals to their self-esteem: he wants them to think of his project as a possible “way out” from the dead-end lives they’ve been leading.

Number 14. “Death of Marat” – The first to take his turn at the canvas is boss-man Tião, who decides to pose for the painting of Jacques-Louis David’s “Death of Marat,” followed cautiously by the other participants. In a humorous episode, Tião starts to undress before the other participants, who shyly look away as he slips into Marat’s outfit. “Irmã’s Painting” is next in line. After posing for her picture, she is finally able to see herself as others do. “Artists have to suffer,” she offers, which leads into the next number.

Magna portrait
Magna’s portrait

Number 15. “Isis’ Suffering” – “They aren’t the only ones,” cries Isis, another of Jardim Gramacho’s put-upon residents. “I don’t see myself in this trash heap anymore. I don’t want to go back to the garbage. I don’t…” Isis then reminisces about her young son, who died in a nearby hospital of pneumonia. The scene shifts between her recollection of the recent past and the events at the landfill, which are taking place simultaneously – in parallel – but on two different levels. Some of the garbage pickers are transformed into doctors and nurses, keeping Isis informed of her son’s deteriorating condition.

This becomes the emotional crux of the drama, wherein Isis sings about the ant crawling on her deceased son’s face – the same ant that, if one pulls back far enough away from the landfill, everyone appears to resemble. “We’re just a bunch of tiny insects in this life,” Isis insists. “I saw my son die at three years old,” as she resumes her story. “He died of acute pneumonia. His name was Carlos Igor.” At the mention of his name, Isis breaks down in tears. In trying to comfort her, Vik tells her that no one can do anything more to her than has already been done. His mission, then, is to help the populace see what life is like on the outside, beyond the confines of the garbage dump. That is the most that he can do – the rest is up to them!

Number 16. “Lesson: How to Look at Art” – This is the scene where Vik instructs the residents of Jardim Gramacho how people who go to museums look at (and appreciate) the works of art they find there. First, they take a step up to the painting, and then they take a step back. This routine turns into an amusing vignette, with the onlookers contributing their own versions of “how to look at art.”

In the meantime, the lesson continues: back and forth, everybody leans in and everybody leans out; they move away, see the material, see the landscape, and then move out again. “Since we’re all garbage pickers,” they claim, “all we see are the recyclable materials.” “But that’s the thing,” Vik pipes in. “They’ll spend hours looking at your photographs. There is more to them than just garbage. Watch, you’ll see.” We know exactly what he means, which is: there’s more to the garbage pickers – much more, it turns out – than meets the eye. You just have to “get up close and personal” to simple folk, they retort, to learn “who we really are” – just like regular folk do with the paintings.

Suelem as "Madonna and Children"
Suelem as “Madonna and Children”

Number 17. “Madonna and Child” – A photo session involving Suelem and her two children takes place. In recreating the artwork, the garbage pickers themselves do the actual placing of the objects onto the photo – that is, they recreate the art from the trash heaps that they themselves have picked. In addition, each work is a commentary – a personal statement, if you will – on the personality and character of the individual who did the picking. For the “Madonna and Child,” this indeed is how Suelem sees herself and her brood.

This happens to be the real theme of the show: i.e., how others have perceived the garbage pickers to be, but, most importantly of all, how Vik, the artist, and especially the garbage pickers, see themselves and their roles in life. It goes beyond what anyone ever imagined at the start. How much they have changed in such a short time! Each finished photo is displayed in its glory. The garbage pickers are overcome with emotion by their wonderful portraits, especially Big Carl and his wife.

Number 18. “The Museum Visit” – In a change of scenery, reporters appear to gather around the garbage pickers doing makeshift interviews. At the museum, Vik and Tião stumble upon a bronze sculpture of a garbage bag. “What’s in it?” Vik asks. “Can you tell me? Can you venture a guess?” Tião pauses and ponders the contents. “Hmm, a cup of yogurt, hearts of palm, small boxes, a brand new cell phone, and the rest.” This scene is reflective of an earlier one, in Act I, in which the pickers made fun of people’s trash. It ends with Tião’s perceptive comment: “I feel like a pop star.”

We next revisit the skit, “How to Look at Art,” now called “Life Imitates Art,” but this time it is put into practice, with the garbage pickers seeing real people looking at their precious pieces of art, in exactly the way that Vik had taught them beforehand, the living embodiment of the phrase “life imitates art.” Both garbage pickers and museum visitors admire each other, first from afar and then from close up, a rather comical observation on how different groups of individuals behave and perceive the other to be – and a perfect illustration of the point that Vik Muniz was trying to make above.

Number 19. “The Auction” – It starts with the sale of an Andy Warhol original, beginning almost in staccato form, à la Mrs. Lovett from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Interspersed with the auctioneer pointing to various parties gathered at the auction, there are comments and asides from Vik and Tião interspersed throughout, as well as from the other participants, somewhat along the lines of: “Did you hear? Did you hear?” and “Did he say twenty, did he say twenty?” “Is it true? Is it true?” “It’s been sold for fifty thousand and two! Did he say fifty, did he say fifty? Sold today, sold today? Is it true what they say?”

At scene’s end, Tião’s picture is sold for $50,000 dollars. He is overcome with emotion and breaks down, weeping with joy – quite a different situation from the earlier one at the end of the first act, where we found him bawling his eyes out at the loss of the company payroll. He simply can’t believe his good fortune. “It’s all worth it. It really is,” he admits. Vik and Tião embrace warmly, in friendship and solidarity, as the onlookers break out into spontaneous applause.

Tiao Santos & Jo Soares (YouTube)
Tiao Santos & Jo Soares (YouTube)

Number 20. “Finale” – The musical ends with Tião and the garbage pickers’ appearance on a popular TV talk show (in Rio de Janeiro, it’s Jo Soares’ program; in America, it’s Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers or Stephen Colbert). Here, the talk-show host introduces the group as “collectors of garbage.” Tião has the polite audacity to confront him: “If I may correct you, sir. Garbage can’t be reused, whereas recyclable materials can. We are not pickers of garbage, but pickers of recyclable material.” What he’s trying to say is that human life is never wasted; it’s always salvageable – recyclable, if you prefer – even if you’re a lowly garbage picker. “I stand corrected,” Soares states, as he looks out approvingly into the audience.

The show comes to a rousing close with the repeat of Valter’s number, “Here’s wisdom aplenty: Ninety-nine is not a hundred, and nineteen is not twenty,” after the elder statesman’s personal motto. The entire cast comes out in a stirring rendition of “The Waste Land Song”:

Seven thousand tons of trash

Work all day for little cash

Robbing Peter, paying Paul

Look, here comes another haul

It’s a Waste Land

The set reverts back one last time to the garbage dump overlooking Guanabara Bay. Only this time, Christ the Redeemer is facing the audience. His massive stone countenance is seen looking down on the inhabitants. It almost appears as if He’s given His blessing to the goings on.

Blackout and curtain

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes