I know that my fellow fans of musicals might put me in their black books for liking this new recording of Evita. One can tell that there has been a mixed reaction to this new recording and the Broadway revival that inspired it. However, this is still a marvellous cast recording of the complete musical and it is very well put together.
The controversy in this recording, at least among American fans, seems to be around Elena Roger's performance in the eponymous lead role. Yes I know that people have complained that she is no LuPone or Madonna. However, as someone from Singapore who has willingly given her a chance and who is not conditioned by LuPone and co, I'm pleased with Elena Roger's portrayal. I know that the part of Eva is strenuous and requires a belting alto who can shriek out the high notes and yet seduce softly with her voice the next minute. Elena Roger's portrayal is very convincing and suits the part well. She does strain on the top notes but it's all right. I know for sure that she sounds much more seasoned in playing the role of Eva than she did on the 2006 London recording. She does sound very conniving and scheming in her solos and occasional hissy fits, and I liked her rendition of Don't cry for me Argentina, as it had the spirit of an insincere political address. It's also lovely to hear You must love me in the stage musical, after the Waltz for Eva and Che and before Juan Peron sings She is a diamond. I might say that perhaps Elena Roger is closer to Julie Covington in the way she interpreted the role on the 1976 concept album.
I thought Ricky Martin fitted the role of Che quite well. This new production conceives the role differently from the original Harold Prince staging of the late 1970s. Che is more like an Everyman narrator figure, less disillusioned in this production than in the original stage version. By and large Ricky Martin exudes charisma, except for the parts when he is biting, sarcastic or even angry. I liked his rendition of High flying, adored.
I'm sure that every listener would be very fond of Michael Cerveris's hefty portrayal of Juan Peron. He may be sinister at times, but he really sounds devoted to Eva in his scenes with her. I tend to like Cerveris's portrayal of Juan Peron better than Bob Gunton on the original Broadway cast album or even the strident portrayal of Paul Jones on the 1976 concept album.
The supporting cast members are excellent and superb. Max von Essen makes a convincing Magaldi and he really melts Eva's heart with his rendition of On this night of a thousand stars. Rachel Potter gives a touching performance as the Mistress who sings Another suitcase in another hall after Eva kicks her out.
I like the new orchestrations a lot. They have more life and sparkle compared to the original 1970s arrangements. I admit that the 2006 London version may have the stronger orchestra because there were more players, but the orchestra on this version is still full-bodied, punchy and lush. The arrangement of Buenos Aires really makes you feel like dancing the samba. I know that we need to respect the original orchestrations of musicals, but if revivals incorporate the setting of the musical and give the music a feel close to the locale, it should be a good thing. This revival does not really tamper with the original score except that it interpolates You must love me. In any case it is good to hear both verses of the Lament that weren't included on the original Broadway album. It is also good to hear the complete four-verse version of And the money kept rolling in (and out).
Let's be grateful that Lord Lloyd Webber and the production team of this new recording did this new recording of the complete score. As I've mentioned I like this better than the 2006 London recording. That recording was a good version but it was an abridged single-disc version of the score. Elena Roger sounds so much better here and more seasoned to the part of Eva than in 2006. It's wonderful that this issue includes the libretto in the booklet so that we can follow along as we listen.
One minor point is that others have mentioned that there is no choir during the second verse of the Lament. However, this omission is only minor. I sense that the producers ran over time and didn't include it in the recording.
This is a wonderful recording of Evita. I think it is an excellent new version and can take its place together with the Broadway recording with LuPone. We should not avoid this recording like the plague. This is thoroughly recommendable on its own merits.
I think that this crowns a banner year for CD releases of the Lloyd Webber musicals, and it nicely complements the remastered version of the Jesus Christ Superstar concept album and the 25th anniversary Phantom.
Meanwhile I hope that Lord Lloyd Webber could re-release the concept version of Evita and make it available again. It is surprisingly hard to get now in the USA. I hope he also remasters the London cast albums of Phantom and Cats. The current stock version sounds a little muffled and the sound is not up to scratch compared to the recent remasters. Similarly I hope he would redo Cats London because it has been poorly served on CD. All the CD versions to date have used a short version of the Jellicle Ball when a longer version of the number was included on the original 2-LP set. I hope he can include ALL the music that was recorded for that cast album.