Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MT Soundtracker: Day 23

Kismet (1953)

Original Broadway Cast Recording

Music: Alexander Borodin 
Musical adaptation and Lyrics: Robert Wright and George Forrest

Synopsis: Set in Baghdad in the times of The Arabian Nights, and based on a 1911 play by Edward Knoblock, the musical tells the story of Hajj the poet who starts off as a poor beggar but rapidly gains money and status while his daughter, Marsinah, catches the eye of the Caliph who wants to marry a foreign princess. 

It seems astonishing that Kismet and Gypsy, the show I dealt with in my previous post, should be from the same decade. Having listened to both recordings, it seems like the two shows could not be much more contrasting. Where big belters are required for Gypsy, I could imagine Julie Andrews being cast in Kismet. The musical has an operatic quality to it as the music has been adapted from the work of Romantic Russian composer Alexander Borodin. Particularly the song Stranger in Paradise draws strongly upon his work featuring some of the show's most well-known musical themes. Borodin's music is described as evocative and rich in its harmonies. Though the setting of the show might suggest so, the score is not reminiscent of traditional Middle-Eastern music. Listening to the soundtrack it does come across American. 
There are many big, operatic ensemble numbers and in order to comprehend everything that is sung, you almost wish for surtitles. However, the song Gesticulate for example features a more speechy quality. It was the score that made the Kismet successful with Stranger in Paradise and Baubles, Bangles and Beads even playing on the radio. 

The original Broadway production enjoyed a successful run and won the Tony for Best Musical. Kismet did even better in London when it opened in the West End in 1955. That same year, a film version of the musical was released. 

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