This "Duelling Divas" seemed a timely one considering a feature film of the stage show, from which the song sprung, is currently winning awards and putting bums on seats in cinemas around the world. What could I possibly be talking about? I Dreamed A Dream from the musical Les Misérables, of course! (I'm sure the post title and it's accompanying image didn't give that away...)
Let's see what Wiki has to tell us about this iconic number;
"I Dreamed a Dream" is a song from the musical Les Misérables. It is a solo that is sung by the character Fantine during the first act. The music is by Claude-Michel Schönberg, with orchestrations by John Cameron. The English lyrics are by Herbert Kretzmer, based on the original French libretto by Alain Boublil from the original French production.
The song is a lament, sung by the anguished, dying Fantine, who has just been fired from her job at the factory and thrown onto the streets. She thinks back to happier days and wonders at all that has gone wrong in her life.
In the original Musical, the song occurs after Fantine has been fired, and before Lovely Ladies. In the film adaptation, these two musical numbers were swapped around, to place dramatic emphasis on Fantine's depressing descent into prostitution.
Being from such a famous musical, it's unsurprising that I Dreamed A Dream has been covered by a number of Divas. But what makes this a change to other Duelling Diva posts is that this one contains singers that many won't be familiar with. But that shouldn't stop you getting involved; it's always good to try new things and discover new singers!
So let's get to it and watch some Divas sing!
Aretha Franklin: Aretha is so awesome, but her version is the worst out of the bunch. Kudos that she tried something different with the arrangement, but it's just too languorous. The instrumentation is gorgeous (you know I love live instrumentation), but the pace and the general composition fails to capture the soaring rise and fall of the original song, instead just meandering along at its own odd tempo. More troublesome is that Aretha fails to convey the emotion of the lyrics, with her intonation making them, at times, hard to even understand. Her vocal doesn't make up for this deficiency, with my primary problem being it sounding like Aretha was inventing the melody as she went along! Overall, not a good start!
Anne Hathaway: I was surprised by Anne's take on the song- which is totally different to any of the others in the post. Not being a singer, she relied on her talent and skill as an actor to wring every ounce of emotion out of the lyric. So although the vocal wasn't amazing, technically, the emotion she packed into the piece remains unparalleled. Ultimately Anne does the impossible and makes the song entirely her own.
Susan Boyle: Boyle's version of the classic is now up there as one of the best known renditions. From her zany entrance to the stage, to her unconventional look, no one was expecting this odd looking lady was going to be anything but a hot mess when she got around to singing. Shame on us. What makes Susan's version so poignant is that the words seem so relevant to her own life. So although the song's narrative shifts away from that of the play, it actually resonates more because of the personal connection. She did struggle at times- I thought there were one or two moments the voice was going to crack- but ultimately she ended up delivering on both the vocal and emotional front.
Petula Clark: I really like the stability that Petula had on the lower notes, as well as the little inflections to her delivery- particularly how abruptly she ended many of her notes. Whether this was due to her age or an artistic choice, I don't know, but it certainly accentuated the hopelessness of the lyrics really well. Overall there was a vulnerability about this version that rang true to the lyrics.
Ruthie Henshall: This rendition was altogether more "operatic". She wasn't belting out the soprano high C or anything, but her placement and control was exceptional. I wasn't sold fully on the emotion of the piece, but the vocal was top notch- if a little too heavy on the vibrato.
Elaine Paige: Having heard so much about this version I was surprised at it being the one I liked the least- bar Aretha's. There's a youthful, light and (slightly) sweet quality to the voice that makes the world weary lyrics harder for me to buy. There's also issues with the intonation which is a little distracting.
Hayley Westenra: Beautiful control, and a nice smooth tone which is predominately head voice weighted. Though only 14 when this was recorded, the emotion behind the lyrics was surprisingly present. However, it was altogether too uniform in tone and texture to have sold the song fully to me.
Lea Michele and Idina Menzel: I absolutely love this version. Both voices blend perfectly together and the harmonies created by making the show tune into a duet work exceptionally well. As usual Lea 's delivery is a little hammy and earnest, but it's balanced out nicely by Idina's earthy tones. I just wish the instrumentation didn't sound so artificial.
But who do YOU think sang it best? Vote (above) and comment (below)!