Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tootie Voigt IS Tosca

Well, then, I've checked "hear Deborah Voigt sing the Facts of Life theme song (albeit under her breath)" off my list of things to do in life, so if you need me, I'll be dead. Only I guess I'd better stick around this mortal coil in case Podles doesn't cancel so there, I'm alive again. She did, though, and then said she always liked the kid in roller skates. Should I back up? I should back up.

Deborah Voigt sang a program of American music theater music (theater. music. theater.) for a rather unattractive looking crowd at the Allen Room this evening. It's not the kind of thing I know how to review very satisfactorily, so I'll keep my remarks brief*, but I will stick my neck out and call it an enormous success. Selections ran the gamut from inspired/unexpected (Bali Ha'i...yeah, I know, total standard but for DV? A bit out of left field, I thought) to deservedly obscure (Children of the Wind, from Rags which is not a good thing to name a musical, unless it happens to suck.)

As fags go, I'm not deeply literate in this rep, so many numbers that may in fact be old hat were fresh enough to my ears. I do suspect, though, that Cole Porter's "Come to the Supermarket (in Old Peking)" has not stood the test of time with its mortifying plinky plonky "me Chinese, me play joke" aesthetic, though it gave Voigt the opportunity to quip, "that thing's as wordy as the second act of Tristan." Freeze there for a second. That's not really a hilarious joke. Unless you've got a certain comic swagger, in which case it's pretty funny after all, and that's why it's sort of a tragedy that large-voiced lyrics spend their careers singing long-suffering ladies and goddesses and a lot of you may never get to see Deborah Voigt do something she does with real flair, except maybe in the comic song her accompanist wrote for her about how a lot of you may never get to see etc.

My friend JC used to practically spit when he talked about Eileen Farrell's jazz recordings. Inevitably he would compare them to Dorothy Kirsten's, and most often he'd end up wondering why Farrell had to condescend to the music, in his words. Now, I've heard Kirsten's jazz albums and they're pretty swell, but I've never heard Farrell's, beloved though they are of many. So, though I suspect there's some awkward parallel to be made here between those two and Fleming/Voigt in this kind of song, I've essentially wasted billions of your neurons on a paragraph that isn't going anywhere conclusive. Hate mail should be addressed to my hotmail account.

What I can say, what I did discover that maybe you knew, is that this kind of recital lives or dies by body language, almost more than by voice. It's possible it requires more theatrical skill than opera, or maybe it's just you can get away with much worse in opera because there's scenery and no microphones and besides, the bar has not been set very high when you think about what passes for acting. (Well that was just downright gratuitous, that link was. I'm surely going to hell.)

Voigt made a self deprecating remark that she was singing "outside her comfort zone," which I just have to label a big honking lie. Some gent in the elevator afterward commented specifically on how comfortable she seemed, and I couldn't agree more, and it floated a bunch of numbers I don't know that I'd go out of my way to hear again, including an oh so ribald number by Marc Blizstein called "A Modest Maid." Um, not to spoil it for you, but the punchline is she likes cock. It was premiered by Charlotte Rae**, which led to the patter about The Facts of Life. Which in turn culminated in DV, not to be confused with Diana Vreeland, promising to make "Tootie Voigt" her new stage name.

It's kind of a huge drag that Voigt probably puts more personality into this stuff than her usual fare, but I guess if she's Kunst over here and Stimm over there, we'll all find ways to enjoy both of her on the merits of each of her. She livened up some really rather staid tunes with such delight in accents and inflection and the occasional well placed belt...but in any case, having heard her intone (in "Paree" from Home Abroad) "Toujours l'amour!" I think we can put to rest aeons of opera-l speculation as to who'd get cast as La Comtesse de Lave were The Women ever set to music.

Encores, since I know you were wondering, were a piece Sondheim wrote for one of my favorite movies, Reds, and a relaxed, spontaneous "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man."

Incidentally, the Allen Room is a peach of a venue. The theater is small and the seats are pricey, but it's hard to beat the view of Columbus Circle and Central Park South. (I started to type "Prospect Park South." You can take the boy out of Brooklyn...and for god's sake I wish you would.)

*total lie, as always
**in case you didn't know, I'm the wholly unreligious and yet weirdly curatorial yid who annoyingly must know everyone's business, and yes, if you were wondering: Charlotte Rae Lubotsky. IMDB is indispensible.


Paul said...

When some well-known opera singer records "Selections from the Sholom Secunda Songbook" (and they could drop 'Bei Mir Bist du Schon' as too mainstream) sign me up! Otherwise I'm not much of fan of this sort of "crossover." Well, I own Richard Tucker's High Holidays' CD, but that's different.

mezzogregory said...

Ms. Farrell's (and I don't mean Colin's) standards/jazz album is a f*cking revelation. That this woman could go from "Pace pace" to blues in the night at all--not to mention idiomatic precision on both points!--is a miracle. Seriously.

You may not care for it on the basis of crossover alone, but you simply must respect it.

Brett said...
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Brett said...
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Brett said...

You--all of you--simply must see / hear Ben Heppner accompany himself singing rock 'n roll (with modifications working Debussy, Deutsche Grammophon, etc. into the lyrics). I witnessed just that last night (at the end of a master class), and I still can't get over it.