Buried in the recesses of my ipod is my entire cast recording collection, which is vast and expansive, and – not gonna lie – full of recordings I ripped to my ipod and promptly never listened to.
So, I’ve decided to try some of them out.
The first musical I gave a listen to is the 1987 studio cast recording of RAGE OF THE HEART.
Great title, huh?
RAGE is a musical based on the story of Heloise and Abelard.
Wikipedia explains the story best.
“Living within the precincts of Notre-Dame, under the care of her uncle, the canon Fulbert, was Héloïse. She was remarkable for her knowledge of classical letters, which extended beyond Latin to Greek and Hebrew. Abélard sought a place in Fulbert’s house, then seduced Héloïse. The affair interfered with his career, and Abélard himself boasted of his conquest. Once Fulbert found out, they were separated, but met in secret. Héloïse became pregnant and was sent by Abélard to Brittany, where she gave birth to a son she named Astrolabe after the scientific instrument.
To appease Fulbert, Abélard proposed a secret marriage in order not to mar his career prospects. Héloïse initially opposed it, but the couple married. When Fulbert publicly disclosed the marriage, and Héloïse denied it, she went to the convent of Argenteuil at Abélard’s urging. Fulbert, believing that Abélard wanted to be rid of Héloïse, castrated him, effectively ending Abélard’s career. Héloïse was forced to become a nun.”
So – Philosophy, Notre Dame, Religion, and Castration. What’s not to sing about?
Enrico Garzili did the music and lyrics for this recording, and his musical choices are at once both inspiring and bloated. The choral numbers and orchestral pieces are stirring – the Overture is really cool – but when it comes to duets for Abelard and Heloise (and there are, count ‘em, six..) the music turns into overwrought ballads. Also, in the mix, are pieces that sound like something pulled from a Tetris game – such as the track “Ashes to Ashes,” which is clearly going for some dramatic chanting action, but winds up sounding like a Taco record.
Some of the lyrics are also worthy of a forehead-slap.
Zero hour, zero hour
Sneaks upon you like a thief
Zero hour, zero hour
Don’t try to find relief
… Not kidding.
In the spring of 1117
My heart is yearning to sing
For in the convent of 1116
I never knew such a spring
It’s no surprise the original 80’s production of the show never saw the light of day.
For their part, the cast does everything they can, but they can’t rise above the material. The prime reason this show even got a recording, and a subsequent release, is due to the fortunate casting of Michael Ball in the role of Abelard. Ball, a UK musical theatre sensation, tries his damndest on this album but too often his tracks are rank with melodrama – despite his being in fine voice, per usual. (I’m a Michael Ball fan, which is the reason I first picked up this CD.) As Heloise, Janet Mooney’s flutey soprano recalls at times both Julie Andrews and Sarah Brightman, but she is also unable to rise above the generic pop ballads she’s saddled with, and too often flounders. Myra Sands, as Blanche (Heloise’s companion), fares slightly better, but that’s largely because her role is minimal.
Abelard and Heloise’s love story is legendary.
This musical, though it tries, is not.
The show finally got a production in 1997 – for three days. In Rhode Island.
(For an awesomely detailed website about the recording, click here.)