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09 July 2013

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “The Music of the Night”

The Music of the Night

TRACK THREE of Back to Broadway is “The Music of the Night” from The Phantom of the Opera (1986) by Andrew Lloyd Webster, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe. This is perhaps the most-performed song from the Broadway play, selling millions of copies in several languages worldwide. Barbra Streisand sings it with Michael Crawford, whom Ms. Streisand starred with in the film version of Hello, Dolly! (1969). It is a dramatic performance. The harmony provides for Mr. Crawford to lead the melody of the song, a nice touch since he made this famous on Broadway and on British Top 10 charts.

Unfortunately, the harmony is where the duet's main problem lies. Ms. Streisand's delivery overwhelms Mr. Crawford's. She sings it with bombast and an overly punctuated phrasing. Towards the majestic climax, she soars away with a money note and a wordless improv that leaves Mr. Crawford to fade out pitifully. A listener unfamiliar with the song can misconstrue Ms. Streisand's line as the main melody.

Ms. Streisand has performed this song in her recent live concerts. However, with dozens of versions already done by others, the recording has not stood out as a unique Streisand offering. I would have preferred her version to be less reliant on the original Puccini-esque orchestration, the way she recorded The Phantom of the Opera's other staple song “All I Ask of You” in a differentiated and more memorable arrangement back in 1988.

The “song pictorial” above is easy to imagine: Barbra kidnapped by the Phantom Erik into the infamous underground cellar with a look on her face that shouldn't exactly be encouraging!

Listen to the track:

Barbra Streisand and Michael Crawford
Barbra Streisand & Michael Crawford, 1969 and 1993

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