Saturday, June 30, 2012

A New (Don't Cry For Me,) Argentina - Evita 2012 Cast Recording

The three principals of the Evita revival: Michael Cerveris (Perón), Elena Roger (Eva) and Ricky Martin (Ché) [Source: Time Magazine].
How much you enjoy the 2012 cast recording of Evita will be largely dependent on how attached you are to previous actresses who have portrayed Eva. As usual, if you're a Lupone fan just don't bother - but if you're open to new interpretations, this recording contains the full score in English, with updated orchestrations and also it boasts the wonderful Elena Roger in the title role.

It gets given the flimsy title of 'rock opera' because it's sung all the way through, but Evita is the best score Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed, combining Latin rhythms, tangos, waltzes and habaneras with his signature souped-up rock rifts and kitsch drum-kit accompaniment. Some moments are over the top and cheesy, but for Evita Lloyd Webber wrote selections that are breathtaking and some melodies are unbelievably memorable and catchy.
The cover art of the new CD [Source: Broadway World].

The cast of this recording are not definitive, but it's always enjoyable to hear different portrayals of roles. Michael Cerveris' portrayal is too lethargic and laden with vibrato for Perón, and his attempt to put emotion into pieces like 'Dice Are Rolling' and 'I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You' seems to make him scoop to notes and affects the authority of his character - it also makes him sound as if he's struggling to reach higher notes which is weird because he has an impressive range. He also has a very strange accent which I can't really pinpoint (listen to him say flourishing as 'flurooshing' in 'Dice Are Rolling'), it's a little off but reminds me of Rogers a little. He's much more memorable than previous Peróns, but I really wish Philip Quast had been able to reprise this role since he was brilliant but practically non-existent on the last Evita recording.

The weakest link of the cast is Ricky Martin, who is is just so jarring to listen to with his embarrassingly obscene accent (like pronouncing Peronism as 'Perronism'), bizarre phrasing and an unpredictable vibrato. Although, occasionally he seems to get things right, and when he does he's quite enjoyable. In numbers like 'Perón's Latest Flame' and 'Eva's Final Broadcast' he actually creates quite an interesting and nasty character, but previous interpretations are superior despite his efforts. Supporting Rachel Potter as Peron's mistress delivers sweet rendition (with a belt!) of 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall', and Max von Essen manages to make the most out of his pointless material ('On This Night of a Thousand Stars') by being the best Migaldi recorded. Maya Jade Frank and Isabella Moner perform a very sweet 'Santa Evita' before the moment being ruined by that random guttural interjection from Martin.

While she'll never be considered the definitive Evita, I'm crazy about Elena Roger, who is perfect in the title role of the trashy and calculated actress who clawed her way to the top and seduced a nation. Roger is the only Evita who has appeared on two recordings - her Spanish accent adds another element of authenticity to her portrayal of Evita (her diction has also improved significantly since her previous recording). The score is unbelievably demanding and strenuous, but while previous actresses have screamed their way through the score, Roger's vindictive portrayal posses a remarkable vocal quality that distinguishes her from previous earth-shattering Evas. Her voice has an earthly quality, slightly rough and raw, but powerful and engaging. She is captivating, and while she has attracted a lot of criticism for being too nasal, she is ferocious on the brutal highs (SCREEWWWW THE MIDDDDLEEEE CLASSSESSS!) and lows of the score, and manages to balances explosive exuberant ('Buenos Aires', 'Rainbow High') with a quietly modest and candid moments ('Don't Cry for Me, Argentina', 'Waltz for Eva and Ché'). Her 'Rainbow High' is simply bitching, and she absolutely smashes the ending with these incredibly crazy notes which would bring the house down.
Shot of 'Buenos Aires' [Source: Evita Official Website].

The new orchestrations are reduced (naturally, since that saves money) and the outcome doesn't reflect the score well since Evita was conceived with sweeping orchestration which very fittingly compliments the woman who became a legend. It's fairly good considering the state of Broadway currently, and the additional embellishments and instrumentation adds a distinct Latin flare, but unfortunately large portions of the score have painfully obvious synthesizers and keyboards substituting the real instrument. I'm all for authenticity when it comes to transferring live scores to a recording, but there are some samples on this album which are criminal - such as the 'harp' noise, which is just vulgar and sounds so unrealistic that it detracts from the grandeur of the score. Also, the tempo of certain tracks are bizarre – 'Rainbow Tour' goes through about four tempo changes, 'Lament' is on steroids and 'On This Night of a Thousand Stars' is utterly erratic.

Most recordings of Evita have had fuck ups that no-one has bothered to fix post production, and in that tradition the mixing and editing is a little lopsided - however it's superior to the amateur attempt on the '06 London revival. There is an odd choice where principals are all mixed to the centre and the chorus sound very distant and heavily processed – they're still great, but the mixing feels uneven when the two are placed together. There's also some weird tendency that when accompaniment is sparse and about to transition to another segment in a song, a bass just booms in without any warning, and then exits just as enigmatically . . .

I enjoyed listening to this new recording, and although it has a few flaws and it's not my favourite interpretation, Elena Rogers makes it totally worthwhile by being totally star quality. If you're new to Evita then this is a good place to start, and if you're already a fan it'll be enjoyable for you to compare to previous recordings and should hopefully hold a high place in your collection.

The New Broadway Cast Recording of Evita was released July 26th, 2012. Available on physical CD and digital download. Preview the entire album for free on AOL music

To all the Patti Lupone fans who whine about how they can't listen to any other copy of Evita . . .


  1. Oh Sammy, Evita doesn't hold a candle to JC Superstar, that was his best score!

    1. It actually took me about 3 years to get into Evita, and I'm still trying to get into JCS - so I expect you're right!