I know, mainly because of Porgy & Bess, that there isn’t too far a bridge to cross between the latter classical pieces and what would eventually become musical theatre. In the end, what is a modern stage musical other than an opera with a different style of singing and, usually, more dancing. This thought really hit my head with today’s piece The Rio Grande. Once I had finished listening to it, all I wanted to do was listen to the opening track of Wicked to hear the chorus bits (and then Kristin Chenowith, because she is a treasure).
There isn’t anything as dramatic in The Rio Grande as ‘No One Mourns The Wicked’ from Wicked – so I guess it was the chorus singing together. If anything, it should have made me think of Carmen Jones or the Cuban scene of Guys and Dolls in how Lambert brings together jazz and Latin rhythms to make something that is undoubtedly cool.
In the middle there is a bit of a dip in the mood that takes us out to the end, where there are more mournful solos and prominent piano movements. As this is based on a poem, it would appear that this slower section is meant to take us out of the noisy towns the Rio Grande flows through and makes its way to the sea and it becomes one with the ocean. Listening to it again, with the poem to hand, really does help understand the moods.