Re: Les Misérables: The Albums [A retrospective] [Take Two]
ORIGINAL ANTWERP CAST
Release year: 1998
Arcade Records, CD 2102417 / HMI Records HMI-128 [Japanese pressing]
1. Proloog [Prologue - Includes full Work Song, Valjean's "Freedom is mine..." speech, Valjean Arrested/Valjean Forgiven a la OBC, and Valjean's Soliloquy in full.]
2. Aan het eind van de dag [At the End of the Day - Cuts identical to the Duisburg album.]
3. Mijn droom [I Dreamed a Dream - Full song.]
4. Baas van heel het kot [Master of the House - Cuts a la OBC.]
5. Ster [Stars - Full song.]
6. Hoor je het zingen op de straat [Do You Hear the People Sing? - Full song, standard false ending used on most recordings.]
7. Mijn hart zingt het uit [A Heart Full of Love - Cuts the acoustic guitar from the intro, goes straight for the strings and winds.]
8. Nog een dag [One Day More - Full song.]
9. Heel alleen [On My Own - Full song.]
10. Breng hem thuis [Bring Him Home - Full song.]
11. Lege stoelen, lege tafels [Empty Chairs at Empty Tables - Full song.]
12. Finale [Epilogue/Finale - Standard album cut, from "Now you are here..." through the end.]
Recorded at Galaxy Studios in Mol on an unspecified date, this disc preserves on record highlights from the bilingual (French/Flemish) production that played at Stadsschouwburg in Antwerp from 24 May 1998 to 18 April 1999. The abbreviated fifty minutes of highlights harks back to the LP days, which is a shame, as it slights an overall very talented cast and orchestra. Produced by Nick Davies, the album's sound is full, deep, and crisp, almost perfectly re-creating the live theatrical soundscape of the show, as it was presented with the tenth anniversary revisions, with a twenty-one piece orchestra under the baton of Björn Dobbelaere. The keyboard programming is true to what one would have heard in the Imperial at the same time that this production ran, percussion hits are clear and precise, and the album maintains a spectacular fidelity of sound throughout, hitting loud when it needs to without sacrificing dynamic contrast in softer passages. The cast is, overall, a fine one, Rein Kolpa, turning in a spectacular Marius, and Deborah Dutcher, returning to the role of Cosette after originating it in the Duisburg production, being particularly standout performers. The cast is led by Hans Peter Janssens as Valjean, who would go on to have a very long history with the show.
The disc came packaged in a standard jewel case, with a stately dark blue cover featuring the Cosette logo and the show's title in tan letters. Please keep in mind that my copy is a Japanese pressing. I'm sure that the version available through Arcade Records didn't have a back cover filled with Kanji. Missing from my copy is a bright green obi band (disappeared about two or three moves ago), similar to the one found on other Japanese albums.
Included with the album is a twelve-page booklet featuring the full lyrics as heard on the album with select photographs from the production interspersed throughout. Sample lyric page:
Other production photographs:
The synopsis page features a spectacular smoky shot of the students, off to build the barricade:
A traditional barricade shot is featured opposite the full cast list:
The back cover features the full album and production credits, printed black on white:
Also included with my version is a card, featuring a shot of the ensemble from "Master of the House" on the front...
...and head shots of the principles on the back:
Two tracks from this album ("Master of the House" and "Bring Him Home") were included on a promotional disc featuring a Photoshop nightmare on the front cover, tied up with a white and purple Les Mis bow. I do not own this, but images from it can be found at Castalbums.org.
This album was another sentimental favorite from my college days, so my views on it are probably a bit biased, but it did represent the truest replica of what I would hear in the Imperial, as the lights went down and the orchestra blared those opening strains. It's certainly neither the prettiest nor grungiest Les Mis out there, and I never hear it spoken of often outside of the occasional "Man, I was hoping this Belgian Les Miz would be in French!" comment, but nonetheless, its truncated majesty holds a special place in my heart.