Goya...A Life in Song

Plácido Domingo

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Goya...A Life in Song Review

by William Ruhlmann

Broadway composer/lyricist Maury Yeston, best known for the 1982 musical Nine, here stays in the south of Europe, but moves west from Italy to Spain, and from the 1960s to the 18th and 19th centuries, in a treatment of the life of Spanish painter Goya. Since Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar began life as a studio cast recording instead of as a stage production, songwriters have occasionally tried this approach, and Yeston has obtained heavy participation from CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff with the initial recorded version of Goya...A Life in Song. The title character is, appropriately enough, sung by Spanish opera tenor Plácido Domingo. In fact, while there are a few other singers (described in the notes as Domingo's "very special guest stars"), Domingo's is the dominant voice, along with a chorus that gets to intone busy chunks of plot and setting (e.g., "The Astounding Romantic Adventures of Goya/In the Middle of the 18th Century"). Gloria Estefan (joined by Joseph Cerisano) personifies "The Inner Voice of Goya (The Conscience of Spain)," when she turns up to sing "Picture It," while Richie Havens represents "Goya's voice of despair" in a particularly dark period of the painter's life in "Dog in the Quicksand." The only other real character is the Duchess of Alba, a notorious mistress of Goya, sung by Dionne Warwick in the romantic duet "Till I Loved You" and on her own in "Once a Time (I Loved You)." As such, Goya...A Life in Song, at least in this version, seems more of a pop cantata or oratorio than the basis for a traditional Broadway book musical. Yetnikoff seems to have spared no expense in terms of studios and musicians; when a saxophone solo is called for in "Till I Loved You," renowned jazz musician Michael Brecker steps in. Yeston's music comes off as a combination of choral numbers and adult contemporary ballads, the words grappling with the painter's tumultuous 82 years of life, but not shaping his story into a clear dramatic form. On the basis of its first recording, the show-to-be sounds like a promising effort that will require a lot of work to stage.

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