Step by step

As all good musical theater queens know, on November 10, 1968, in (belated) celebration of the 50th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, a special concert performance of his operetta Candide was offered in what was then called Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center. In retrospect, one of the more notable aspects of this evening was the participation of a then little-known actress named Madeline Kahn who sang the role of Cunegonde.  

A pirate or pirates somehow managed to capture this gala on tape, including Ms. Kahn’s interpretation of “Glitter and Be Gay,” which has been widely disseminated. However, La Cieca believes the document of this aria generally heard does the budding diva an injustice.

Most masterings of taped pirate performances from the 1960s need pitch correction because battery-powered reel-to-reel machines available in that era were notoriously unreliable at maintaining an absolutely steady speed. So whoever transferred the original tape of this “Glitter and Be Gay” seems to have adjusted the pitch of the recording to match up to the score, with this result:

However, La Cieca thinks that doesn’t really sound all that much like Madeline Kahn, not even a very young Madeline Kahn. For comparison, this is what she sounded like only a couple of years later, in the musical Two by Two:

Was it possible, your doyenne wondered, that in 1968 La Kahn transposed the aria down a half-step, ending in G major instead of the original A-flat? Well, let’s hear what the above sound clip sounds like slowed down to that lower key.

I think this version matches the timbre of Kahn’s voice much more closely, and even the “screamed” high D is consistent with the Kahn we all know and love.

What do you think, cher public?