Anna Russell Album
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|1. Introduction to the Concert (By Women's Club President)|
|2. How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera|
|3. Coloratura aria: Canto dolciamente pipo from the opera La Cantatrice Squelante|
|4. British - pure but dull: I Love the Spring|
|5. "Russian folk song: Da, Nyet, Da, Nyet"|
|6. For loud singers with no brains: Ah Lover! from the operetta The Prince of Philadelphia|
|7. For singers with tremendous artistry but no voice: Schlumph; Je n'ai pas la Plume de ma Tante|
|8. For the dramatic soprano: Schreechenrauf|
|9. The Ring of the Nibelungs (An analysis)|
This set of Anna Russell's inspired satirical monologues should be labeled with a warning notice. Why? Because after listening to her whirlwind explication of Wagner's Ring Cycle, even the most confirmed Wagnerite will be unable to listen to the Ring for weeks to come. Just listening to Russell declare in an incredulous voice: "I'm not making this up, y'know" is enough to induce you to shed bucketloads of laughter-induced tears. Gilbert and Sullivan fans will find their heroes savaged in her concoction of a typical G&S product, complete with a soprano lead who "loves below her station." Other targets include "the nymphs and shepherds" style of quavery English singing, complete with "hey-nonny-nonny's," coloratura mad scenes, and much else, including Russian folk songs, like her "Da, nyet, da, nyet." This disc is packed with laughs, chuckles, smiles, and everything. --Dan Davis
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I saw here "live" at McCarter Theatre at Princeton many years ago during her series of farewell performances, and even though 50% of the audience knew the routines as well as she did, everyone laughed themselves silly.
About 10 years ago, I finally wrote her a fan letter, to which she responded - in inimitable fashion.
If you like vocal music, think you might like vocal music or just want to listen to a master comedienne who knows her topic (you name it vocally, she knows it and can sing it, and make it excruciatingly funny)In short - BUY THIS!
I have never forgotten lines like "You remember Alveric!," and her description of "My Friend Erda, the Green Faced Monster", or her shout of "Hi, Siegfried," all from her version of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Her musical depictions of the characters in the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera section, along with her version of the "obligatory patter song, have also remained ingrained in my memory."
I, of course also enjoy the other 7 tracks on this CD, but nostalgia plays a great part in my extra enjoyment of the two tracks I mentioned above. Her "Introduction to the Concert by the President of the Women's Club" is so exactly on the mark, that you can almost visualize a rather pompous woman standing on a podium and using her oratorical skills just as Ms. Russell has depicted them.
All in all, I think that Anna Russell was one of the greatest, original performance satirists of our age.
Unlike some of the other reviewers here, she didn't "ruin opera" for me. What she did do, is to give me another, often light hearted, way to look at some of the more melodramaric operas, and, amazingly enough, to make better sense out of Wagner's oh so complicated Ring Cycle operas.
In my opinion, this is a CD that should be reintroduced to the listening public with enough fanfare to popularize it.
Her parody of German is really funny! You can tell she is making up german-sounding words (or French or Russian or whatever) without them actually being words. She also "germanizes" English words.
Warning: You may not be able to listen to Wagner's ring operas with the appropriate seriousness after this album!
She said of her RING routine, "Some people were shocked that I would send up this august piece of music, but I don't consider it a sendup. I merely tell the story as accurately as possible and play the bits of music exactly as written. I can't help it if the story is absurd." This is the heart of the brilliance of her humor. All her subjects--from the foibles of vocalists to the lady-president of the local music appreciation society to the homogenous nature of Gilbert and Sullivan operetta--are treated with that unerring eye of accenting the inherent absurdity.
It's just wonderful for any aged listener, it doesn't date, and it even has the veneer of culture. So long as the listener has a sense of humor, you can't go wrong.
The humor is enhanced by musical examples, which are played by Russell on a solo piano. The rendering of a brief section of the Magic Fire Music reveals her to be a pretty good pianist. I suspect she could have played a great deal better if the situation called for it. Her soprano voice is accurate enough to make the Valkyries, the Rheinmaidens, and the Norns sound as ridiculous as possible. Great stuff. Recommended.