I escaped the heat on Friday by going to see Les Misérables in a nice, air-conditioned cinema. I had a lot of misgivings about this film, it must be said. Firstly, as a singer in training myself, I have Opinions about how things should be sung. But more importantly, I absolutely loved the musical when I saw it as a teenager. I learned all the songs, bought the sheet music and learned all the accompaniments, read several English translations of the text (learning, in passing, what a difference a translator can make), then saw the musical in France and bought that recording and learned all the songs in French, too. I even tried to read the novel in French, but got stuck a couple of hundred pages in, when Hugo goes off on a digression about Napoleon. This had been hard enough to get through in English. In French, it was a bit too much.
So the film had a lot to live up to, musically speaking, and while it was far better than I had feared, it didn’t quite get there for me. On the other hand, the acting, staging, and general quality of the film really were excellent enough that I could forgive the occasional vocal weakness and the deep strangeness of finding the chorus voices more appealing than those of the leads. It made me cry in all the right places, and only made me wince a handful of times (and let’s face it, one of the reasons I don’t go to films very much is because most of them manage to fill me with ire one way or another, and it is antisocial to express this in a cinema). Overall, I’m glad I saw it. But it has left me with a deep craving for the French recording, which I now have only on an obsolete cassette tape.
Not much of the version I saw in Paris back in 1991 seems to have made it onto YouTube, but some of it has. And it still makes me cry.