Contacting Rosemary

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Gypsy seduction and poor men blessed

Over at Wizards' book club, they asked us authors what we would sing if they handed us a karaoke microphone.

Since I assumed this was a magical, fabled karaoke, I responded with songs that I thought probably wouldn't be found on any playlist outside of my mind. Which keeps me safe from having to perform in public should I ever be foolish enough to be in the same room as a karaoke machine.

The first was the Habanera from Carmen. That ode to love's fickle ways defines my favorite character in opera. She puts it quite bluntly to the town and to the eventually smitten hero: if you love me, watch out!

I don't think there is a recording out there that quite captures the soul of this song the way that Stephanie Blythe did when she sang it at Seattle Opera several years ago. Sadly, far too many of the audience members spent their time commenting on her waistline and not her vocal pyrotechnics. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in this libretto says that the gypsy needs to be skinny (although the Met went that route with their recent broadcast). Blythe proved that a woman can indeed seduce with a song...now if only she would release a recording of Carmen!

The other song, "Dives and Lazarus," comes from June Tabor's collaboration with the Oyster Band (also known these days as the Oysterband). Tabor's voice smokes through rendition of a traditional ballad of a poor man who comes to beg at a rich man's door. After getting the boot from the rich Dives, the wretched Lazarus makes it heaven. Dives, as might be expected, heads the other direction and finds himself the beggar in much warmer supernatural region.

This and multiple other goodies can be found on Freedom and Rain, one of my best albums for songs about pain, love, curses, and the sad fates of Scottish girls who fall in love with English men ("Susie Clelland").

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