Cappuccino Soul

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reri Grist: Coloratura Soprano

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Why they didn't get this woman to play a primary role in the film production of West Side Story is not really beyond me, I know why, but my goodness did they miss a chance to put some real power behind the song "Somewhwere" in the film. I've been singing this song to my daughter Gigi in a really broad way, which makes her laugh, but when I showed her how Reri Grist, the original singer, sang this song on broadway, Gigi was captivated.

I don't know a whole lot about opera, but one Youtube commenter says that Grist is extremely underrated. He said: "... for those that don't know, she's a coloratura soprano ... but look at how she's singing those low notes so rich and full."

For those of you who have seen a staged version of this musical or the film with Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno, decide for yourself. I can only speak for myself. When I hear this version, I immediately put this as the number one version to listen to. It not only made me want to find out more about Reri Grist -- it made me really listen to and hear the lyrics of the song. That's the ultimate compliment to a singer. If he or she can make you pay attention to the words and the intentions behind the music.

Brava Reri Grist. Bravissima!




Somewhere
Music by Leonard Bernstein/Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere.

There's a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time to spare,
Time to look, time to care,
Some day!

Somewhere.
We'll find a new way of living,

We'll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere . . .

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there
Somehow,
Some day,
Somewhere!

From Wikipedia:

Reri Grist (February 29, 1932) is an American coloratura soprano, one of the pioneer African-American singers to enjoy a major international career in opera. She was born in New York City, grew up in the East River Houses Project, attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Queens College, City University of New York. In her early teens she performed on Broadway in small roles and in musicals along with Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Lawrence Tibbett and Eartha Kitt, while gaining a solid training in voice through private study with Claire Gelda. Her first opera engagement was as Madame Herz in a concert performance of The Impresario by Mozart. Her first staged, quasi-operatic engagement was in 1956, as Cindy Lou in Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones. She performed the role of Consuelo in the original production of Leonard Bernstein's classic musical West Side Story in 1957, introducing the haunting song "Somewhere" to the public.

10 comments:

Regina said...

Wow! her voice is simply beautiful!

Alicia Michele Benjamin said...

Regina,
I KNOW. I was amazed that this woman was actually in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, and at least her gorgeous voice was not used in the film.
Thanks for commenting!
alicia

PatricktheRogue said...

Not being big on opera, I have never watched West Side Story. I realize it is important and I am sure it's great, but I haven't been able to make it very far into it.
This lady does have amazing power and delivery though.
I hadn't realized until I heard this song, that Queen was, in a way responding to this song with the song, "Who wants to Live forever?" The lyrics start - There's no time for us, there's no place for us...

Alicia Michele Benjamin said...

Shaun,
Maybe if you concentrate on Rita Morena and her boyfriend in West Side Story, you could get through it. They are the BEST things in the picture. Their gang also has the best dancing in the film I think. Rita really lets it go with "Stick to your own kind." It's sort of strangely humorous too, especially viewing the story from our time when mixed couples are so abundant.
That Queen song sounds intriguing. I'll have to check that one out.

Anonymous said...

Took me time to read the whole article, the article is great but the comments bring more brainstorm ideas, thanks.
- Johnson

Alicia Michele Benjamin said...

Johnson,
I'm curious. What are those "brainstorm" ideas you have?
alicia

Anonymous said...

nice post,thanks for share.

Alicia Michele Benjamin said...

You're welcome!
alicia

Anonymous said...

Ce post m'a beaucoup aide dans mon positionnement. Merci pour ces informations

Alicia Michele Benjamin said...

Bonjour!
il n'y a pas de quoi, de rien

alicia