Some Enchanted Evening

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"Some Enchanted Evening"
Song from South Pacific
Published 1949
Writer Oscar Hammerstein II
Composer Richard Rodgers

"Some Enchanted Evening" is a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. It is "the single biggest popular hit to come out of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show."[1]

In South Pacific[edit]

The song appears in the first act of the musical. It is sung as a solo by Emile de Becque, a middle-aged French expatriate who has become a plantation owner on a South Pacific island during World War II. Emile falls in love with Ensign Nellie Forbush, an optimistic and naive young American navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas. The two have known each other for only a few weeks, and each worries that the other may not return his or her love. Emile expresses his romantic feelings for Nellie, recalling how they met at an officers' club dance and instantly were attracted to each other. He asks her to marry him. In the song, he says that when you fall in love, you must seize the moment; otherwise, all your life you will "dream all alone". The song is then reprised several times during the show by Nellie and/or Emile as their relationship experiences setbacks and reconciliations.

In the original Broadway production, "Some Enchanted Evening" was sung by former Metropolitan Opera bass Ezio Pinza. Pinza won the Tony Award for Best Actor in 1950 for this role,[2] and the song made him a favorite with audiences and listeners who normally did not attend or listen to opera.[3] In the 2001 London revival of the show, Philip Quast won an Olivier Award for Best Actor for his role as Emile;[4] seven years later Paulo Szot won a Tony for his portrayal in the 2008 New York revival.[5]

In the film version of South Pacific, the first and second scenes of the play are switched around. Because of the switch, Emile enters later in the film, and "Some Enchanted Evening" is not heard until nearly 45 minutes into the film, while in the original stage version it is heard about 15 minutes after Act I begins.[6] In the film, the song is sung by another Metropolitan Opera bass, Giorgio Tozzi, who dubbed the singing for actor Rossano Brazzi.[7]

Analysis[edit]

According to Popular Music in America, the song's "lush orchestration, expansive form, and above all its soaring melody" allow the singer and character (Emile) to "linger in the moment" of immediate infatuation.[8] Gerald Mast's history of the American musical notes that the song is a climactic moment which reveals that two characters have fallen in love, and it expresses a seize-the-opportunity lyric:[1] "When you find your true love ... Then fly to her side / And make her your own". According to the running commentary on the 2006 Fox DVD release of the 1958 film version of South Pacific, Lehman Engel remembered that Oscar Hammerstein II wanted to write a song based around verbs but waited ten years to do so before he wrote this song,[9] in which the verses are built around the verbs "see", "hear" and "fly".

Selected recorded versions[edit]

Many popular singers have recorded and performed "Some Enchanted Evening".[10] Perry Como's version was a #1 hit in 1949,[11] and Frank Sinatra recorded the song several times.

In popular culture[edit]

The song's title has been used as the name for albums, such as one by Blue Öyster Cult, one by Art Garfunkel and a cast album and PBS special of the revue "Some Enchanted Evening" – The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein.[12] It was used as the name for television episodes in such TV series as The Simpsons, Last of the Summer Wine, Man About the House, and Bless This House. The song has been sung in films and on TV shows, for example by Harrison Ford in the film American Graffiti (1978 reissue),[13] by an itinerant chanteuse in Crossing Delancey (1988),[14] by Jon Bon Jovi on Ally McBeal in the episode "Homecoming" (2002)[15] and by Bert in episode 102 on the Muppet Show (1977) to Connie Stevens.[16][17] Richard Thompson named his 1985 album, Across a Crowded Room, after a lyric in the song.[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mast, Gerald. Can't Help Singin': The American Musical on Stage and Screen. Overlook Press, 1987. p. 206. Excerpted in: Block, Geoffrey. The Richard Rodgers Reader, p. 91, Oxford University Press, 2006.
  2. ^ South Pacific 1950 Tony winners, Tony Awards official website, accessed April 4, 2012
  3. ^ Eaton, Quaintance. The Miracle of the Met: An Informal History of the Metropolitan Opera, 1883-1967. Greenwood Press, 1976. p. 227.
  4. ^ "Olivier Winners 2002", Olivier Awards official website, accessed April 7, 2012
  5. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Tony Winner Szot to Return to Broadway's South Pacific March 31; Michals to Sub in April and June". Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Pressley, Nelson. "An Era's Bias, Cast In Bali Ha'i Relief; With South Pacific, Arena Stage Takes On A Troubling Zeitgeist". Washington Post. December 15, 2002.
  7. ^ "South Pacific (1958)". TCM.com, accessed April 6, 2012
  8. ^ Campbell, Michael. Popular Music in America: And the Beat Goes on, p. 132, Cengage Learning, 2008 ISBN 0-495-50530-7
  9. ^ In the 2006 Fox DVD release of the 1958 film version, running commentary of the film is provided on the first disc by Ted Chapin and Gerard Alessandrini. Alessondrini mentions that Hammerstein told Engel that he wanted to write a lyric focusing on verbs ten years before he wrote South Pacific.
  10. ^ Link to numerous recordings of the song, Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization website, accessed March 18, 2012
  11. ^ Perry Como, "Some Enchanted Evening", Music VF.com, accessed April 7, 2012
  12. ^ "Some Enchanted Evening – The Songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein", Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, accessed December 24, 2013; and "Centennial Summer", Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, May 1, 1995, accessed December 24, 2013
  13. ^ Pfeiffer, Lee and Michael Lewis, The Films of Harrison Ford, Citadel Press, 2002, p. 59 ISBN 0806523646
  14. ^ Dinicola, Dan. "Crossing Delancey is Refreshing", Schenectady Gazette, September 29, 1988, accessed April 7, 2012
  15. ^ "Ally McBeal: 'Homecoming'", TV.com (CBS), accessed April 7, 2012
  16. ^ "Rare Appearances of Bert and Ernie on The Muppet Show", Retroist, March 29, 2012
  17. ^ Chapman, Phillip. "Connie Stevens - Episode 2", Muppet Central Guides, accessed April 7, 2012

References[edit]

  • Nolan, Frederick. The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, New York, 2002. ISBN 1-55783-473-3

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend" by Vaughn Monroe
U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single by Perry Como
July 30, 1949 – August 27, 1949
Succeeded by
"You're Breaking My Heart" by Vic Damone