"Going My Way" a musical goldmind

Prague Opera House, where Rise Stevens sang from 1936-38. (I am more and more ecstatic that I had the opportunity to see Budapest and Prague)

Serendipity channel surfing: as I was flipping through my meager broadcast TV offerings this afternoon, I happened upon an announcement that "the following presentation is brought to you without commercial interruptions," or boilerplate to that effect. Up popped the Bing Crosby musical "Going My Way." I've never seen it, but was aware that there are innumerable hit tunes throughout. I settled in with left-over popcorn from last night and a diet Dr Pepper and was immediately drawn in when Rise Stevens flashed on the credits. (The "e" in her first name should have an umlaut.)

I've always been drawn to the mezzo-soprano/contralto sound, even as a little girl, and Rise Stevens' star was high at the Metropolitan Opera as I grew up. Many young women aspire to the soprano range and repertoire, but the lower voices seemed richer, more sensuous. Not quite matronly, unless the role or piece was written that way--quite the opposite.

The hits came rolling in: Schubert's "Ave Maria," Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus," and Ms. Stevens joined in with the boys choir from St. Dominick's. Gorgeous, even with Bing's buh-buh-buh-baaah baritone anchoring it firmly in the musical styles of the day.

And then I realized why this musical stuck with me, even though I'd never seen it before. One of the scenes takes place at the Metropolitan Opera, with Rise singing and flirting her pants off in the sexy, lascivious Habanera "L'Oiseau d'eun" whatever, my French is lousy, but she was fine as a straight-laced, but full of possibilities, Carmen. Any woman who can pull that off without being crass, awkward, slutty, over-the-top, or otherwise not entirely in character, has my complete, total attention.

I'd LOVE to see a punk version of Carmen. OMG. Wonder who I could get to back it? I would totally do it.

That's not all Ms. Stevens is known for. There is a particularly plum pants role in Strauss' Der Rosencavalier that was a signature character for her. Evidently, she owned Carmen. Went from Juilliard to Prague/Vienna, then to the Met. She helped train up and coming singers as manager of the Met touring program, leaving her mark on opera education. I'll see if I can find something on YouTube.

Back to "Going My Way." Lots of fascinating trivia. Released in 1944 and was the first film to win Oscars for Best Film and Best Song (see? I'll bet a lot of readers will recognize that tagline), "Swinging on a Star," later covered by Frank Sinatra. Andy Williams and his brothers debuted in the on-screen performance of that segment.