George Gershwin's songs for the musical theater have lived on in the decades since his death in adapted form, as successive generations of pop singers have made them their own. With the help of conductor John McGlinn and the New Princess Theater Orchestra, opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa here attempts to restore some of those songs to their original form, employing the original orchestrations to most and using a few re-created ones where charts have been lost. Te Kanawa also has backed off from the personal interpretations pop singers have given songs like "Someone to Watch over Me" and "The Man I Love" over the years, going back to a more distanced, presentational style. It's possible to overdo that, of course, and that's a natural tendency for an opera singer more concerned with vocal tone than with conveying emotion or meaning. In that context, it may be more of a compliment than it sounds to say that Te Kanawa's performances are better than might have been feared. True, she seems to have given more thought to intonation than to articulation, sometimes losing Ira Gershwin's wit and revealing traces of her Antipodean accent in the name of musical prettiness. But it is possible to get a sense of what these songs are about, and the importance of restoring the songs to the form in which they were heard originally is worth the occasional arbitrary operatic flourishes. Particularly notable is the world premiere recording of the previously lost "Meadow Serenade," a song written for the 1927 musical Strike Up the Band, and another gem is Desmond Carter's revised version of the Ira Gershwin lyric to "Boy Wanted" for use in the British musical Primrose. These performances make the project as a whole worthwhile.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Strike Up the Band, musical (first version)|
feat: The Foursome