Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops' studio cast recording of The Sound of Music is one of the many attempts to legitimize Broadway musicals for the "serious music" crowd by casting it with opera singers. Among Rodgers & Hammerstein's works, this is the one closest to being a traditional operetta -- it's even set in Austria, if not Vienna, exactly -- and it does offer some satisfactions from a formal singing point of view, especially in the soprano showcase "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," well-performed here by Eileen Farrell. But it is also a warm-hearted (some have said cloying) show about simple pleasures and children, which makes the casting of the central role of Maria crucial. Frederica von Stade (despite her foreign-sounding name, a native of Somerville, NJ) certainly has the voice within her mezzo-soprano range to handle the part vocally. But where Mary Martin, who originated the role on Broadway, and Julie Andrews, who played it on screen, emphasized Maria's warmth in contrast to the stern Captain von Trapp, von Stade comes across more as a hard taskmaster unlikely to win over all those children's hearts. Kunzel, in cooperation with the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, has opted to retain both the songs that were heard only on-stage and cut from the film ("How Can Love Survive?," "No Way to Stop It," "An Ordinary Couple") and the songs written by Rodgers alone for the film ("I Have Confidence in Me," "Something Good"), which wouldn't make sense in a staging but makes this (with a couple of previously unrecorded bits of music thrown in) the most complete recording of the score yet attempted. Still, the performances, while formally accomplished, lack the characterization and dramatic force of either the original Broadway cast recording or the soundtrack album, which is typical of Broadway-by-way-of-the-opera-house recordings.
Share this page