|Placido Domingo & John Denver, ca. 1980|
In setting out to review this album, I've been hampered by enduring ambivalence. With a couple of exceptions (the insistent crescendos of "The Eagle and the Hawk" and the guitar-less "This Old Guitar," with Rod Gilfry inexplicably crooning with intense seriousness) I didn't feel that any of these rather unexpected ventures were outright failures, but the album as a whole left me somewhat cold. Some of the finest voices on the album (Dolora Zajick, Denyce Graves) seemed mismatched with their material. The pleasing tenor of Daniel Montenegro was better-matched with "Goodbye Again." Danielle De Niese took "Rhymes and Reasons," which she performed with excellent diction, making me wonder about the possibility of Gilbert and Sullivan in her future. "Perhaps Love," with Placido Domingo duetting with Placido Domingo Jr., was shamelessly schmaltzy, but I found myself willing to forgive it much. Having heard Rene Pape swagger successfully through "Some Enchanted Evening," I was expecting and hoping for more Broadway-style self-assertion in "Follow Me," but it wasn't sluggish. Matthew Polenzani also acquitted himself nicely in "For You"; the gratuitous translation into Italian was utterly inexplicable to me, and best passed over in (comparative) silence.
Shenyang's cheerful, lilting "Shanghai Breezes" was a nice tonic to the CD's tendency towards excessive seriousness. Thomas Hampson's refreshingly assured, comparatively light-hearted take on "Sweet Surrender" was possibly my favorite, helped by a comparatively light arrangement. As previously noted, I like Patricia Racette's brassy cabaret style, and her unapologetic "Leaving on a Jet Plane" left the schmaltz to the string section (and had my mother humming along.) I double-checked the booklet to make sure that it was indeed Stuart Skelton singing "Fly Away"; he didn't sound like Siegmund at all, but seemed to have a fine sense for the song itself. I wish the rest of the album had been as successful.