I was REALLY excited for this recording. The only version I have is the full movie version, which is not precisely the same (it never is) as the stage show, so I wanted to hear the full Broadway version. And I’d also heard a lot of squawking about how high and hard the part is. So I wanted to hear that, too, and see if the squawking was right. Top it with the fact that Michael Cerveris (whom I’ve loved ever since I saw him as Thomas Andrews in Titanic) was singing Peron, and I was pretty excited.
Sadly, excitement not really lasting.
The good points, first:
- Michael, of course. He does a great job as Peron, not that I expected anything less.
- Ricky Martin is a pleasant surprise. He does a nice job with the role, both in musical expression and in musical technique.
- I definitely enjoyed hearing the whole scope of the thing. Some things are cut in the musical movie, which is to be expected, especially the “montage” which is the penultimate number in the show. Wow. That is awesome.
- Great chorus work.
- It’s, of course, ALW, whom I love.
The bad points:
- Oh, how I wanted to like Elena Roger! But no. It’s impossible. She’s Argentinian, yes, but her voice is nasal, grating, and brash. Her tempi are WAY TOO FAST. She takes the “Lament” like it’s a horserace, and the iconic “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” is zoomed through. I believe the tempo marking on that is Andante, or at most, moderato. NOT allegretto/allergo/quasi-presto.
- Besides the singing, her acting is not that great (and yes, you can judge acting on a recording of a sung-through show. It’s like an opera). You don’t really like her in Act I, and she needs to be charming. She needs to have some sort of (projected or real) sweetness, appeal, SOMETHING to make all those men get into bed with her, to win over so many people, to get Peron to marry her, etc. Not there. And since it’s not there, Act II (which I think is one of the best Act IIs ever—more on that in a sec) doesn’t work, because why do we, the audience, care if she dies? We don’t.
- The reason (one of the reasons, anyway) I love the role of Evita is the fantastic character arc. She goes from 15 to 33, from a provincial country girl to the First Lady and “spiritual leader” of Argentina. But also, she grows from being a striving grasper for position to someone who realizes, at the end, that she couldn’t have it all. “Dice Are Rolling” and “Lament” are sad. They are supposed to be wistful, introspective. When she sings “Oh/What I’d Give For A Hundred Years/ But the physical interferes/ Every day more/ Oh my creator/What is the good of the strongest heart/ in a body that’s falling apart/ a serious flaw/ I hope you know that.” (“Waltz for Eva and Che”) You should feel like crying when she’s done. The actress playing Eva has to be able to tap into that feeling of a young life suddenly being wrenched away (not like I have any experience with this feeling, or anything), but also discovering that her husband loves her for her, and not for her political advantage (“You Must Love Me”). Yes, she and her husband had crappy political policies. But you should genuinely feel sad for this woman, her husband, and her country as she’s singing the “Lament.” That’s not happening here.
Oh, and for the range being really hard and really high? Bunk. Total, utter bunk. Christine in Phantom is much higher and harder. (I think the highest note in Evita’s role is a G5) This one can be sung by a good belter, and in fact, probably should, in some parts, because of the emotion in the songs. This is NOT a ridiculously “woman hating” role (as Patti Lupone famously called it). It’s long, but it’s not like Die Walkure long. Really, the acting is what makes this role. You can get a monkey to sing it. But if you can’t tap into the emotion, it’s flat. Cerveris and Martin do that. Roger, sadly, doesn’t, and thus it just doesn’t work.
HOWEVER—it’s not a bad CD to have in your collection, because it’s been updated from the OBC with the edition of “You Must Love Me” in Act II. Cerveris is great. The music has also been updated a bit, thanks to ALW doing some more research on Latin-American music and rhythms. So if you’re a fan of Cerveris, get it. If you’re looking for a great Evita, get the OBC or the Madonna movie soundtrack (the two discer, please!).