Saturday 20 February 2010
The path to La Stupenda
News of Kathryn Grayson's death at the age of 88 brought with it a flash of recognition. Not that I think I've seen any of her films, in spite of a fondness for Hollywood musicals; even Kiss Me, Kate I only caught in bits on the telly years ago. Yet thanks again to La Cieca's coverage on Parterre, I've been able to pinpoint what I think it was caught my mother's imagination and led me to the great Joan Sutherland.
She'd seen the Bell Song from Lakme performed in some film or other; she never could remember which, or who sang it. So we searched Sutton Record Library and found it on a celebrated LP, The World of Joan Sutherland. I was hooked; you can take that old 'my mother made me a...' line if you like, but I was ripe for operatic camp anyway.
And there, on Parterre, is this YouTube sequence of Grayson in It Happened in Brooklyn (1947), singing the entire Bell Song in a raj setting not devoid of imagination, and in French. Rather well, too.
Ma still thinks the one she saw would have been even earlier than that, but unless anyone can come up with an alternative, let's believe that this was the fountainhead.
PS - 25/2: Will HAS come up with that alternative - Lily Pons in the 1935 film I Dream Too Much. She, of course, is the kosher operatic diva, and one of the first really svelte ones at that, but her sense of pitch isn't quite up to pretty Kathryn's. Note that they shipped in a few genivine 'Indoos for the occasion.
Review of last night's 'Hollywood concerto' and the much more important Martinu Fourth is now up and running on The Arts Desk. What made me really happy was that in the very diverse audience for my talk sat a glamorous street dancer called Imelda who'd never been to a concert before, and who loved every minute of the concert. A heaven-sent punter.