Anna Hathaway's breathtaking performance as Fantine in Les Miserables singing "I dreamed a dream" probably touches the soul of millions worldwide who have watched the movie during the holidays. I was one of them. The first time I listened to this song dated back to 1994 when I was a graduate student in New York. I dressed up to attend the live broadway musical show with my ex girlfriend. It was the melody that caught my attention mostly. It wasn't the emotion.
Susan Boyle's rendition of this song probably elevates the "popularity" of this song to another threshold two years ago. But still I wasn't connected. As the role of Fantine in Victor Hugo's original novel was very fragile constantly in a state of despair, it makes me feel why Susan charges up so much vocal energy to perform this song. The emotions may come entirely from her own life journey. Perhaps, the powerful voice reflects Fantine's ultimate accusations before she died. Again, there is nothing wrong with any approach to art. The bottom line is I wasn't connected.
Then I began to do some researches on the internet about the super divas who have sung this song before. First, I listened to Ruthie Hendall. Her voice is beautiful with excellent diction. The voice projects with confidence. But again, I couldn't feel the pain of Fantine. Instead I feel there is a fairly heavy dosage of hope in her rendition. And that somehow contradicts with the lyrics. Perhaps the requirement of singing live in a braodway show is just different. I simply don't know.
The next is Patti Lupone. She is a legend, period. It is she who gave character to this song. Under the vocalism of Patti, I could feel the pain of Fantine in a different way. There was a slight hint of hope but soon to be taken away by despair. In the end, she conveys a feeling of accepting her tragic live as fate and so be accepted. The emotions are well paced and so artfully controlled backed by heavenly vocal gymnastics. By the way, she is the original singer of "Don't cry for me Argentina" eclipsing Madonna's performance by a few planets.
Anna Hathaway's rendition is unique in spite of technical imperfection. The pain is raw and physical. It is sheer realism of a human being. There is no suggestion of hope. She depicts "fragility" with contrast. There is a feeling of a hatred against the insane world at the end. I don't feel the Fantine under Anna wanted to accept her fate as it is even though the cruel reality killed the dream that she dreamed.
I immediately bought 3 copies of the soundtrack. Before I played the soundtrack, I read the little booklet to understand a bit more about the mastery work before the recordings. I want to check out if the intensity of emotions could equally be conveyed at AE with a 2 channel high end system without the help of cinematography. Anyway, I am already biased. All of a sudden, an idea sprung up in my mind.
I want to call for a contest in Hong Kong. Whoever can reproduce Track 5: "I dreamed a dream" in the latest Les Miserable soundtrack "closest to" or "better than" the performance at AE will win the latest Argento Flow Master Reference SE power cord. I will be the judge with a clear written set of criteria. I will go and visit your system to judge. Whoever wants to join the competition, please send an email to email@example.com. The competition is opened to anyone. Application will be closed by the Jan 31st, 2013.