Notes and Editorial Reviews
Kismet is everyone's favorite crossover show, set in the fabled city of Baghdad, where East meets West, opera collaborates with Tin Pan Alley, and Broadway character actors are partnered with operatic heavies--the reason being that the music for this popular show was adapted from the compositions of romantic classical composer Alexander Borodin. It was a successful mix that made the Russian composer's music immensely popular, though certainly not in the way he would have imagined or desired. One of the main themes from Prince Igor's Polovtsian Dances became "Stranger In Paradise", a pop chart topper recorded by dozens of famous names. This recording, originally released 10 years ago on the TER label, has a handsome cast. Donald
Maxwell's rich, resonant baritone makes memorable moments out of such songs as "Rhymes Have I" and "The Olive Tree", while Richard Van Allan rolls out gorgeous bass tones for "Night of My Nights", reminding us that he is a first-rate Don Giovanni on the operatic stage. Judy Kaye is a riot in the comic role of Lalume, sizzling her way through "Not Since Nineveh", and David Rendall makes an ardent Caliph, whose "Stranger in Paradise" is as good as any out there.
The only weak link in the cast is Valerie Masterson, who sings Marsinah. She would have been ideally cast in this role back in her D'Oyly Carte Opera days, but now the voice is simply too mature (and occasionally insecure) for us to believe, as we must, that she is Maxwell's daughter. The chorus and orchestra are first rate and the sound is rich and detailed--not quite as realistic as Jay's more recent surround efforts, but just barely shy of that, and about as good as any opera recording in the catalog. The music is presented complete, an Act for each of the two CDs. Moreover, "Bored", a song added for the MGM movie version, is included in a generous set of bonus tracks, as are five songs written especially for the African American revival version of the show, which was called Timbuktu! and starred Eartha Kitt.
--Rad Bennett, ClassicsToday.com
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