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Fabulous Friday: "Kiss Me Again"

"Kiss Me Again" is a bewitching song from a Victor Herbert operetta, Mlle. Modiste. Here's the cute background story courtesy of Wikipedia:

Viennese soprano Fritzi Scheff had already built a following at the Metropolitan Opera when Victor Herbert engaged her to appear in his operettas for an astonishing $1,000 a week. She starred in four of his operettas, beginning with Babette (1903). Mlle. Modiste was the most successful of these. During the curtain calls of Babette, she pulled Herbert on stage and planted a big, sexy kiss on his cheek. "The Kiss" generated considerable comment, and when Herbert wrote Mlle. Modiste, two years later, he wrote one of his most famous melodies for her, "Kiss Me Again".

Doesn't that story give a strong whiff of 1905? The leading lady is kissing the composer, clutch those pearls! Here's a 1936 recording by Frau Scheff. The commentator refers to her as an "old lady" - - she was 57! I guess that makes ME an old lady. Her wonderfully gooey style sends me. The portamenti, the rolled Rs, the endless hanging on of high notes. You go, girl.

Here's Beverly Sills singing the song with her own brand of gooeyness. And Andre Kostelanetz adding his gooeyness with the orchestra. She sings an intro I haven't heard before.

Here's the peerless Rosa Ponselle singing it with the long intro that the Scheff's commentator mentioned, where she talks about all of the things she could do if she were on the stage. The whole thing is capped off with "Kiss Me Again." I love how Ponselle really digs into her chest voice.

Oh Lord, Deanna Durbin? For real? Lovely voice and a tasteful performance.

I'll finish with my unlikeliest favorite performance of this song, by the great jazz singer Annie Ross. I saw her at Danny's Skylight room sometime around 2007. She sang this song, with which I was not familiar, and I was totally overcome, dissolved in tears. Her voice, at this point, was about 20% voice, 45% gravel, and 35% wobble, but dear Lord the lady knew how to deliver a song. Maybe the most bewitching performances of a song I've ever heard, unforgettable.

Here she is singing it in a medley with another Herbert favorite, "Indian Summer."

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