Thoughts on Baritone as Jesus?
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Author:  The Guard [ Sat Jul 31, 2010 11:55 am ]
Post subject:  Thoughts on Baritone as Jesus?

So I'm a Baritenor, and while I think I'd prefer to play Judas, and could play Caiphas, and am warming to Pilate, I've discovered that I can sing the role of Jesus. I'm not a tenor in any sense, but I have the range, and a powerful high falsetto. I guess the question is, could people see a more brooding, angrier, rumblier, "darker" Jesus? I know that sounds odd on some level, but I've always seen Jesus in this show much as the modern Superman. He's a good, pure person, but he can be terrifying if he's angry. Do you think it would be an interesting take on this conflict-ridden character, or just too much?

Author:  MunkustrapQC [ Sun Aug 01, 2010 12:07 am ]
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Well, there's been tons of different staging of Superstar over the years. Some put Jesus as a mafia leader, some as a drug dealer, etc, so I don't see why Jesus couldn't be played by a baritone in a darker way.

Author:  The Guard [ Sun Aug 01, 2010 12:08 pm ]
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Mafia leader? Awesome.

I'm actually thinking that it would be cool to see Jesus Christ Superhero, since in my mind, he kind of was one. I think it'd be cool to see him in silver white tights and a blue cape. Or maybe not. Hmm...

Author:  Brother Marvin Hinten, S. [ Sun Aug 01, 2010 3:45 pm ]
Post subject: has never been portrayed to my knowledge as a gang leader or a drug kingpin in this show. The lyrics and the story go so against either idea that I'm pretty sure I'd ask for a refund were I to see it depicted. As for Jesus as superhero, you try looking at the costumes for Godspell lately?

But to answer your more serious question, if a baritone had a pop falsetto to High G, I do believe it's a G5 or a G6, then yes they could totally do the part. Jesus' highest note in "Gethsemane" is that G (also known as "WHYYYYYY" and "AAAAAALRIGHT IIIIII'LLL" by anyone watching a clip of Ted Neeley in the role; in the instrumental break of that song, he will also add an unscripted fourth G with "NOOOOOOO").

Author:  The Guard [ Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:02 pm ]
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I've got the pop falsetto, the "WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY SHOULD IIIIIIII DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE" is one of my favorite parts to sing. Now to get the world to accept Dark Jesus and his spandex cape look.

Author:  Brother Marvin Hinten, S. [ Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:50 pm ]
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*sigh, followed by facepalm*

1. Don't sing it the Glenn Carter/Steve Balsamo way, for the sake of all JCS fans. Do it the Ted Neeley way.
2. Re your costume idea: No.

Author:  High-baritonne [ Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:21 am ]
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I am a JCS fan, and Glenn Carter are one of my favorites in the roles of Jesus. I love Jesus Christ Superstar as a Rock Opera, but I prefer it as a more "symphonic" musical, like they made it for the 2000 production.

Author:  Brother Marvin Hinten, S. [ Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:22 am ]
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*starts to say something, then stops, then starts again, then stops, then sighs in frustration*

It is only your dazzling good looks that keep me from disagreeing with you.

*starts to leave, then runs back*

No, no, I'm NOT letting this go!

The point of JCS is that it went out of its way not to be "symphonic." This is the musical that rocked the world, that prompted boycotts, picketing, bomb threats, and letter writing campaigns all over America, the musical that dared to recount the "Greatest Story Ever Told" in the earthiest, most democratic, most populist language of all -- rock and roll.

The point was that it was absolutely emphatically not supposed to be "symphonic" at all; it was a challenge to authority. This is not a religious story and it's not a story about Christ's suffering or whether or not he was divine, both of which would lend themselves more to a "symphonic" treatment. It is of its time, a story, told from Judas' point of view, about Jesus as a subversive political activist and challenger of the religious and political status quo, and the brutal and terrified response of the authorities, with clear parallels to the hippie movements of the 1960s.

It's timeless largely because America (its biggest audience) seems to be doomed to spend the 21st century largely under some kind of political unrest. Another big factor is that, just as when the show first premiered, many Americans are moving away from organized religion and toward more personal spirituality and philosophy. In the early 1970s, American youth saw that mainstream religions had reduced religious experience, the act of living through faith, to nothing more than symbols and metaphors, subverting and short-circuiting the personal religious experience itself. They believed that mainstream religious traditions and rituals got in the way of true faith and the search for ultimate truths. The same thing is happening today, as church attendance decreases in America and more and more Americans search for something more. JCS changed, commented on, and reflected all of that.

Intimate. Contemporary. Political. Up close and personal. All the things that "symphonic" rarely (if ever) is.

Author:  High-baritonne [ Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:37 am ]
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I agree with all of this, it is just that I am not a huge fan of rock, thus I am more inclined to like the Symphonic sound better. I am not claiming that Jesus Christ Superstar should be symphonic, in fact it is better presented as a Rock Opera. I just like the softer, rounder sounds more than the edgy rock.

Author:  Mungojerrie_rt [ Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:45 am ]
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I see no reason to not have a baritone as Jesus if you can get all of the notes. Including the aforementioned high ones in Gethsemane full power, not Jesus 2000 whiny girl style. It is terrible to have the point of strongest emotion with the weakest vocals. But both the leads in that version are terrible. Pop singers trying to rock. Give me the 92 Australian concert anyday.

Author:  Brother Marvin Hinten, S. [ Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:11 am ]
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Hell, even Ted Neeley now still has the notes. (Sadly, his "farewell tour" finally closed this past May. He may be back with the show in a slightly different guise, however, in the not so distant future. Details to follow.)

Author:  Vichysois [ Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:16 am ]
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In my opinion, the role of Jesus requires two different types of voice production. One is rock singing, the other is rock screaming.

As for the rock singing, a baritone playing Jesus is possible if he has an extremely strong, consistent, and balanced high range as well as an unusual extension into the tenor range.

Firstly, Jesus is all over G4 (the broad/general highest baritone note) throughout the score, over a variety of syllables and different voice placements. Some baritones can't do this.

Secondly, Jesus must hold some tenor notes (A4 through C5). Consider the following examples:

- High As in "What's the Buzz?"

- The run in "Strange Thing Mystifying": "If your slate is clean, then you can throw stones...."

- High B in "Everything's Alright"

- The run in "Trial by Pilate": "I have got no kingdom in this world..."

Then there's the rock screaming. The ability to mimic Balsamo or Carter on the "Why should I die?" in "Gethsemane" in no way means that one can sing the role of Jesus. There are times when the rock falsetto scream extension is below that, say between C5 and E5, and those notes need to have as much oomph as the G5. Just from an anatomical point of view, a guy uses a lot of particular force - different muscles and phonation - to produce that High G. But you can't use the same productive technique on lower notes.

Think about it this way: What happens when you yell? Pay attention to the register in which the sound comes out of you. It's probably higher than your normal speaking voice. Conversely, sing the lowest standard note for your voice type. Can you sing that note as loud as you can the highest standard note for your voice type? Can you yell the lowest note of your voice type? I doubt it.

Also notice that the score and instrumentation of JCS accommodates and abates the inescapable limits of the human voice, even with microphones and mixers. What's the orchestra doing when Caiaphas belches out his low C#? It's playing quietly. What about when he's yelling his High Fs? It's more moderate. How about when Pilate's screaming a Bb4? It's loud. Is Judas yelling his head off? Chances are the orchestra's playing decently loudly. Is Jesus wailing a High G5? You get the idea.

In other words, you're not going to have a sound tech adjusting your mic level every few words/phrases throughout a particular song to accommodate your voice production. An actor playing a particular role must be able to sing the frickin' role. Microphones are supposed to enhance, not fabricate. Put the pitch correction machine the hell away.

Or we can just go for the really short answer. If you're a baritone, and you're not a professional singer, you probably cannot sing the role of Jesus. Don't even think about singing Judas. You'll die.

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