As you may know, I'm quite the Broadway afficianado, and by that, I mean that my knowledge of musical theater isn't limited to the Wicked* soundtrack. My recent obsession has been Little Women, but the truth is that my favorite musical is whichever one I've seen last. So with that kind of background, it stands to reason that I would be familiar with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. It's sort of a hard thing to miss, especially since it was made into a film. And since I'm more than a casual fan, I'd probably be familiar with the recording made by the original cast, which included Michael Crawford and, you guessed it, Sarah Brightman. And you'd probably think I'd be a purist like PetiteSoeur and loathe anything but the original. Well, that part you've got wrong. I love listening to the original soundtrack, but I cringe whenever Sarah Brightman, the original Christine Daae, starts singing.
No, Sarah Brightman isn't some one-hit wonder. Phantom got her started, but it's definiely not where she stopped. She's widely known as a wonderful artist, and it's true that she is well trained and talented. It's how she sings that irks me. Singing, in my opinion, is a very useful tool for conveying human emotion and giving insight into a character. That's one of the reasons that I love musical theater so much--you're delving into the characters by means of more than one medium. When Sarah Brightman sings, you can hear the character and the meaning in her voice, but unfortunately it's drowned out by her own narcissism. She's singing about love or fear or whatever, but all you can hear is, "Look at how well I can sing! I'm the best singer in all the land!" To make matters worse, she's not alone. Listen to The Narrator in the original Broadway Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat album and you'll see what I mean.
Maybe it's a harsh judgement. I mean, I don't personally know Sarah Brightman (or any actors/singers, for that matter) and I'm not an expert in vocal performace. It's just my opinion, after all, and it's not like PetiteSoeur agrees** with me. Still, I am distracted by such performances, as I feel the actor or actress isn't really doing any acting and that's what I came to see (or hear). And then I have this sudden urge to break the CD into millions of tiny pieces, and that's not good.
Regards, best wishes, and food for thought,
*I love Wicked. Really, I do. What I don't love is the perception that to love Wicked is to be a Broadway fan. It's like reading a page in a book at random and telling people you've read the whole thing. Besides, you can't really saturate something in the media without running the risk of making people sick of it.
**For the record, PetiteSoeur and I, while both hardcore fans, rarely agree on anything when it comes to Broadway. It seems we always like the same thing for completely different reasons.