2017.01.10 Concert Smetana Hall, Prague: Blue Skies

Smetana Hall, Prague

10 January 2017


“Simon Keenlyside and world musicals from Broadway and Hollywood–the other face of the famous British baritone!”

“Hits from classic Broadway and Hollywood musicals continue to enjoy immense popularity with audiences. The British baritone Simon Keenlyside yielded to their special magic, too and recorded a CD Something’s Gotta Give (label Chandos) which is full of songs from famous musicals. He will offer some of the them to Prague audience, including some of the best-loved numbers in the repertoire, such as Cole Porter’s Night and Day, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’, and If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof.

The range represented, from the emotional tour de force of ‘Soliloquy’ to the charming character song ‘Reviewing the Situation’, showcases the many facets of Simon Keenlyside, one of the most sought-after and the most charismatic opera singers. In the world of musicals, he will perform the role of Fagin in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! at the Grange Park Opera, Northington, Hampshire, England in June 2016. In the 2016/2017 season, he will be Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera New York (including live broadcast on 22nd October), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro) in La Scala Milan, and Macbeth, Don Giovanni and Golaud (Pelléas et Mélisande) at the Vienna State Opera. Simon Keenlyside made his Prague debut on 27th January 2015 with Štefan Kocán and PKF – Prague Philharmonia, within the Nachtigall Artists’ series World Opera Stars.”


Irving Berling (1888-1989)
Isn’t it a Lovely Day?
from the film Top Hat (1935)

Emmerich Kálmán (1882–1953)
Lichtreklamen (James Bondy)
from the operetta Herzogin von Chicago (1928)
libretto: Julius Brammer & Alfred Grünwald

Kurt Weill (1900–1950)
Johnny’s Song
from the musical Johnny Johnson (1936),
libretto: Paul Green

Emmerich Kálmán
Charleston, Charleston tanzt die Welt
from the operetta Herzogin von Chicago (1928)

Emmerich Kálmán
Cowboy Song (Roy Dexter)
from the operetta Arizona Lady
libretto: Alfred Grünwald & Gustav Beer (1954)

Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)
Song of the Big Shot (Bill Cracker)
from the musical comedy Happy End (1929)

Kurt Weill & Langston Hughes (1902–1967)
Lonely House (Sam Kaplan)
from the opera Street Scene (1946)

Richard Rodgers (1902–1979) & Oscar Hammerstein II (1895–1960)
Soliloquy (Billy Bigelow)
from the musical Carousel (1945)

Irving Berlin
Call me up some rainy afternoon (1910)

George Gershwin (1898–1937)
How long has this been going on?
from the show Smarty
text: Ira Gershwin (1927)

Jerome Kern (1885–1945)
Let’s begin
from the musical Roberta
text: Otto Harbach (1933)


Billy Strayhorn (1915–1967)
Lush Life (1933–1938)

Duke Ellington (1899–1974)
Mood Indigo (1930)

Hoagy Carmichael (1899–1981)
text: Mitchell Parish (1927–1928)

George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin
Our love is here to stay (1938)

Frederick Loewe (1901–1988) & Alan Jay  Lerner (1918–1986)
On the Street Where You Live (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) (1956)
from the musical My Fair Lady

Cole Porter (1891–1964)
What is this thing called love?
from the musical revue Wake up and Dream (1929)

Hugh Martin (1914–2011) & Ralph Blane (1914–1995)
The Girl Next Door
from the film Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer (1909–1976)
Skylark (1941)

Cole Porter
So in love
from the musical Kiss me Kate
text: Cole Porter (1948)

Duke Ellington
Do Nothing till You Hear from Me (1940)

Jerome Kern & Otto Harbach
She Didn’t Say Yes
from the musical The Cat and the Fiddle (1931)


Mack the Knife

Love is the Sweetest Thing

Photo Gallery

Concert photos by Petr Dyrc, published by Nachtigall Artists Management

Sound Bites

operaplus.cz, Robert Rytina, 11.01.17

Translation of extracts from this review by Jana


“… Keenlyside brought his favourite songs to Prague in a chamber jazz packaging. Nevertheless, the baritone‘s quintet managed to conjure up the atmosphere of the sound of an interwar ballroom masterfully. And this is how the accompaniment for the first piece – Berlin´s movie song Isn´t It a Lovely Day? from 1935 – sounded. Simon Keenlyside showed himself to be a highly qualified expert of period interpretation. From his vocal performance – almost miraculously free of operatic pathos – it became apparent from the very beginning, that this type of music is his “matter of the heart“ and that he did not consider it to be artistically inferior.

 The baritone dedicated the first half of the evening to a kind of educational excursus about the contribution of  European music to American theatre. He introduced and commented knowledgeably on the vocal and instrumental pieces from Kalman´s Operettas The Duchess of Chicago and Arizona Lady, then he switched easily to the work of an another eminent European – to Kurt Weill´s song from the musical comedy Happy End – and finally to compositions written for Broadway. In these, Keenlyside put the microphone away and sang them actually as opera arias, since this was what they were primarily intended to be – Johnny´s Song from Johnny Johnson and Lonely House from the opera Street Scene. In my opinion, the deeply felt interpretation of these masterful music miniatures had to reconcile even those concert visitors who would like to hear Simon Keenlyside in “more classical repertoire“.

 The real highlight of the first part was, for me,  a famous monologue – Soliloquy from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel. Keenlyside performed this roughly eight minute long musing of the “antihero“ Billy Bigelow on his prospective fatherhood,  as a distinctive monodrama.  From his Billy, he created a believable portrait of a man who “got out“ of his regular life for a while to sort out important values inside of him. (…….)

In the second half, Keenlyside – a guide through the history of musicals – became basically primarily Keenlyside – a musical chameleon. What do  I mean with this word? In my opinion, an unusually musically gifted singer, whose technique and  intellect allow him in an impressive way to provide his audience with an enjoyment, which we would probably hardly experience with any other opera singer. What followed was actually a full-blooded jazz jam-session, where all the musicians present played musical, blues and swing standards inventively and with a great sense of humour (…)

With great understanding for swing classics, Keenlyside sang the legendary Carmichael´s Stardust and gave some sweet movie nostalgia to Gershwin’s late song  Our Love is Here to Stay. An interesting contrast was his intentionally operatic rendition of the song On the Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady,  while his musicians played the musical basis in the form of a perfect bossa nova. The song What is This Thing Called Love? sung by Keenlyside with piano accompaniment only, was followed by Martin´s and Blane´s The Girl Next Door  in a waltz arrangement and Porter´s So In Love from the musical Kiss me, Kate performed as a tango.

The audience, warmed up and in the right mood, did not want to let the artist go even after the final playful song – Jerome Kern´s She Didn´t Say Yes, so two encores followed: the renowned Mack the Knife  and one other interwar hit – Ray Noble´s romantic Love Is the Sweetest Thing.

After well-deserved ovations dedicated to an excellent singer, who convinced us  that there are no genre pigeonholes  go for him, I recall enjoyment….



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